When I wrote my last article I gave some pointers about your rights when your Doctor (either your GP or Consultant) failed to give you enough information to enable you to make an informed decison on whether the proposed procedure was the right one for you. I said that I would come back to the question of how else Doctors could be negligent in treating.
One area where I receive a lot of questions is about what you can do when there is a delay in your Doctor diagnosisng your problem and the delay results in you having further health issues that a prompt diagnosis would have prevented. No one would suggest that a Doctor is always expected to diagnose every health problem the first time you meet him. In some case of course you COULD expect that if your symptoms were so obvious that any reasonable Doctor should have known what the symptoms were (meningitis for example). In other cases a diagnosis may not be so clear. It may be that when you first go to see the Doctor the symptoms you have are not a clear indication of anything significant and Doctor may quite reasonably not recognise that there is an isssue that needs to be addressed.
The question that often arises however is what happens when you continue to have the symptoms and still the Doctor fails to diagnose the problem? That then becomes a different issue because if presented with the SAME complaints and the symptoms continue then the Doctor owes you a duty to investigate further. And then, once a diagnosis has been made, if you can show that the Doctor ought reasonably to have acted sooner then you may have a claim against him for negligence.
The types of cases where a delay in diagnosis becomes a legal matter is where the delay has had an adverse effect. One case that comes to mind is that of a young girl whose GP failed to diagnose a hip problem shortly after she was born. Her parents saw the GP on a number of occasions complaining that their daughter was not walking properly. The GP failed to diagnose a significant hip problem which led to the girl requiring painful surgery. If diagnosed sooner then conservative treatment would have corrected the hip problem and the need for surgery would have been avoided. I succesfully pursued a claim for the girl for the pain and suffering of the surgery, the cost of the care she needed after the surgery, her mother’s loss of earnings and the private cost of follow up care.
It is worthwhile bearing in mind that if you already have a health problem then the Doctor should be aware of this when making a diagnosis. So if for example you tell your GP of problems with your throat when swallowing, any change in voice, lack of energy, constant tiredness then in the first instance a Doctor may be forgiven for not recognising a thyroid issue. But if you have previously had thyroid problems then your GP should be more alert to the possibilities and if he fails to promptly diagnose given the history then you may quite justifiably have a claim against him
As always, remember that both John and I are always happy to chat with you about any possible claim and give you some guidance on what you may be able to do. Our first interview is always fee of charge so there is no cost to you in simply finding out if you have a right to claim.
Until next time