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Negligent misdiagnosis versus a mistake

When people in Glen Cove or elsewhere on Long Island go to a doctor to get a medical opinion, they naturally expect the diagnosis to be correct, as they should. After all, a doctor's failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis of a condition can lead to life threatening medical complications in the worst case scenario.

On the other hand, New Yorkers have to realize that even the best doctors engage in a good deal of guess work when diagnosing their patients. Although medicine uses science in a lot of ways, it is in many other senses an art, especially since a patient's symptoms could signify any number of medical conditions.

Therefore, doctors are entitled to a little leeway when it comes to making a diagnosis. Specifically, so long as they followed the standard of care when making a diagnosis, they are not going to be held accountable if the diagnosis turns out to be wrong.

Standard of care can be a complicated concept, but at is core, the standard of care is how a hypothetical reasonable doctor would practice medicine when that doctor is focused on being careful and safe.

As applied to making diagnoses, the standard of care usually involves two elements. First, the doctor must make differential diagnoses, meaning he or she has to consider alternative conditions that are causing the patient's ailments and rank them in order of likelihood. Not including a diagnosis on the list is grounds for a medical malpractice claim if it turns out the omitted diagnosis was correct.

Second, the doctor has to go through the process of eliminating or confirming each possible diagnosis, using further testing as necessary. If an item on the list does not get properly vetted and turns out to be the correct diagnosis, a medical malpractice action is certainly possible.

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