Can I take legal action towards doctors based on a late diagnosis of hypothyroidism if the condition caused me to suffer for years?

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Can I take legal action towards doctors based on a late diagnosis of hypothyroidism if the condition caused me to suffer for years?

I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) last summer. I have had symptoms of the hypothyroidism my whole life, and I have a history of thyroid problems in my family, that has been well documented to every doctor I saw. Since I have thin hair, am obese, have a lower sex drive, and depression, which are symptoms of hypothyroidism, I had asked several doctors (both as an adult and a minor) whether hypothyroidism was a possibility. They just wrote me off as someone making excuses for bad habits, which I was not. I’ve always been very active with proper diet.

Asked on April 24, 2015 under Malpractice Law, Illinois

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

You need to consult with a medical malpractice attorney regarding your situation. Based on the facts presented, you appear to have a possible case.

In order to successfully pursue a medical malpractice claim, it must be shown that: (1) due to a doctor's negligence (2) their patient suffered harm.

In such cases, if a doctor fails to diagnosis a serious health condition, the issue as regards to negligence is whether or not they breached the applicable "medical standard of care" under the circumstances. In other words, was your doctor's misdiagnosing your condition legally negligent? This means, would a doctor with similar training in the same medical community have identified the problem? Since you noticed something amiss for an extended period of time, it is reasonable to think that another doctor would have also.

The next issue is what harm or "damages" did you suffer as a result of hte misdiagnosis? Your quality of life was apparently impaired and it's something can in theory collect on as long as you can prove enough to receive compnsation sufficent enough to justify the costs involved in bringing suit.

Again, seek a consultation with an attorney experienced in medical malpractice claims (in these cases such consultations are typically for free).

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

The first issue will be whether failing to diagnose you with hypothyroidism was "reasonable" or not, since even if it was in error, it may have been a reasonable diagnosis. The law accepts that doctors are not perfect: if the diagnosis you previously received was reasonable under the circumstances and given the symptoms, the doctors would not be liable.

The second issue is what damages you can prove--you'd have to prove concrete legally cognizable losses from a misdiagnosis. Quality of life impairment is something you can in theory collect for, but it can be very difficult to prove to a sufficient level as to get worthwhile compensation.

You should consult with a medical malpractice attorney about the situation in detail, but you need to be prepared that his/her advice may be that this could be a very difficult case to bring and win.


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