Most people have a primary care physician who they see for routine concerns. People tend to deeply trust the physician who oversees their care. In modern medicine in the United States, primary care physicians are, essentially, medical gatekeepers. They evaluate patients and determine when they need to see a specialist. They also potentially have the authority to prescribe treatment and recommend specialized testing, like imaging tests that can show cancer or brain injuries.
Even if someone’s primary care physician won’t provide them with treatment for their condition, the patient relies on their doctor to accurately diagnose them and get them to the right specialist or recommend the appropriate test given their reported symptoms and medical history.
Unfortunately, misdiagnosis remains a major issue in modern American medicine. Millions of people each year receive the wrong diagnosis from their doctor or don’t get diagnosed when they desperately need an answer about what causes their symptoms. What rights does a patient have when they trust their primary care doctor or a specialist to diagnose them and the doctor fails or makes a mistake?
Patients can sometimes file medical malpractice claims
Typically, the only real means of seeking personal and financial justice available to a patient is a medical malpractice claim. By accusing the doctor of providing substandard medical care, they can potentially connect with payment from a malpractice insurance policy. In some cases, a major mistake will lead to a claim that might even change the way that a physician practices medicine.
Medical malpractice claims may go to court and may draw media attention, but often they settle outside of court and involve non-disclosure agreements. For a patient to effectively protect themselves and pursue justice, they will usually need their medical records and the review of another physician who affirms that the care that they received was inappropriate or that their doctor failed to do what other reasonable physicians would in that situation.
Most people will also need help handling negotiations and filing claims with an insurance company and/or paperwork with the courts. Although the process of pursuing a medical malpractice claim may be lengthy, it is one of the few options for justice and financial recourse available for people who have been harmed by a doctor’s diagnostic failures. Working with a legal professional to determine whether a situation warrants a medical malpractice claim can help those who didn’t receive a timely and accurate diagnosis and suffered harm as a result.