When you have a terminal illness, every second counts. A diagnosis error can waste precious time on incorrect treatments, or no treatment at all. At The Law Offices of Aaron Allison, our expert attorneys have been fighting against medical malpractice since 1978, and we know how devastating a failure to diagnose can be. Our Austin attorney’s office helps victims of medical malpractice understand their rights.
What Happens After Failure to Diagnose a Terminal Illness?
Studies estimate that 1 in 20 American adults are affected by diagnostic errors every year. Every medical case is different, but diagnostic errors can have severe impacts on a patient and their loved ones, especially in the case of terminal illnesses. There are two main types of diagnostic errors, each of which can have different effects, including:
- Misdiagnosis. A misdiagnosis is when a patient is diagnosed as having a different illness or condition than the one they actually have. Doctors may misinterpret symptoms, fail to run the right tests or misinterpret test results, lack important information in a patient’s medical history, or make other mistakes that lead to an incorrect diagnosis.
- Delayed diagnosis. Delayed diagnosis happens when a person is correctly diagnosed, but later than they could or should have been. A doctor may have underestimated the severity of an illness, failed to run diagnostic tests, or not referred the patient to a specialist when necessary.
Whether the diagnostic error is a misdiagnosis or a delayed diagnosis, it can have severe impacts on people with a terminal illness including spending time and money on incorrect — and even potentially harmful — treatments for a disease the patient does not have and lost time and resources seeking different medical opinions.
For diseases that may quickly progress and require rapid and effective treatment, diagnostic errors can cause negative health outcomes and even death
Unfortunately, the average rate of misdiagnosis for the most severe and life-affecting illnesses ranges from 5.2 to 9.7 percent, and for some conditions the diagnostic error rate is much higher.
How to Care for Someone With a Misdiagnosed Terminal Illness?
Terminal illnesses have severe physical and psychological effects, and diagnostic errors can make those effects much worse. When caring for a loved one with a terminal illness and a missed diagnosis, here are some of the things you can do:
- Take time to listen. Your loved one has a lot of thoughts and feelings to process. They may want to talk, or prefer to stay quiet. Let them know that you are there to support them, and ready to hear whatever they have to say.
- Suggest counseling. If someone has a terminal illness and a short prognosis, counseling may seem like a waste of time. But if it helps them feel calmer, happier, and more peaceful, it may be the best use of the short time they have. A local hospice or palliative care center can help refer you to a therapist or counselor who specializes in terminal illnesses.
- Plan ahead. It may be a difficult conversation, but if your loved one has intentions regarding their funeral, their possessions, or end-of-life decisions, it’s important that they let you know. You may also need to know the location of necessary documents, online accounts and passwords, and other critical information.
You may need to consult with an attorney regarding healthcare decision-making for your loved one, final wills and documents, and other necessary matters. If your loved one is also a victim of a misdiagnosis or diagnostic error, you should also consult with a malpractice attorney near you.
How Can Aaron Allison Help?
Medical malpractice can be difficult to prove. Even great doctors sometimes make honest mistakes, but the impacts of delayed diagnoses can be severe, and victims may be entitled to recover lost wages, excess medical costs, and damages related to emotional distress. Aaron Allison gives free consultations to malpractice victims in Texas to help you understand your rights if you or a loved one has suffered a diagnostic error. Our Austin-based malpractice attorney will fight hard for your rights, so contact us today.