What is a Wrongful Diagnosis?

A wrongful diagnosis is a form of medical malpractice. A wrongful diagnosis occurs when a doctor fails to diagnose a medical condition correctly and promptly. Patients rely on doctors to discover medical problems. Patients also depend on doctors to direct them to the correct treatments for those medical problems. When a doctor fails to see what is wrong, something another doctor would notice, or when a doctor sees something that’s not there, something another doctor would diagnose correctly, then they could be liable for a wrongful diagnosis.

How Often Does Wrongful Diagnosis Occur

According to the medical journal BMJ: Quality and Safety, autopsies are the “gold standard” for checking if a diagnosis is correct. Coroners have found that ten to twenty percent of the bodies examined post-mortem received a wrongful diagnosis. Also, coroners don’t perform an autopsy on everyone after their death, so we can’t know the exact figures. An article from NBC News reports that at least five percent of adults who received outpatient care in the United States were subject to a wrongful diagnosis. The article argues that this means every person in the United States will experience a wrongful diagnosis at least once in his or her life.

Reasons for a Wrongful Diagnosis

There are many reasons why a doctor might provide a wrongful diagnosis. A doctor can reach the wrong conclusions if he or she doesn’t fully consult with his or her patient about symptoms and medical history. Some doctors should refer patients to a specialist, but they don’t. Doctors might fail to run the right tests or look for specific diseases that need certain tests to diagnose them. Maybe the doctor ran the right tests, but he or she read the results incorrectly. Maybe the doctor ran the right tests, but someone along the line mismanaged the diagnostics in some way, returning bogus results. It’s also possible that a doctor simply doesn’t follow up or further investigate what might be the cause of a patient’s symptoms.

The Most Common Conditions for a Wrongful Diagnosis

There are a variety of reasons why people visit the doctor when something goes wrong. Sometimes patients aren’t sure what is wrong, but they feel a slight pain, discomfort, or a feeling of unease. It is up to the doctor to find out what is wrong. Some medical problems receive a misdiagnosis more than others. Here’s a list of some of the conditions that doctors commonly misdiagnose:

Staph infection

Doctors can mistake a staph infection for the flu. If doctors neglect to treat a staph infection quickly, the consequences can be debilitating or fatal.


Chronic bronchitis is sometimes diagnosed instead of this dangerous condition.


A late diagnosis can mean aggressive treatments that are more painful and debilitating than if doctors treated the problem sooner. A cancer diagnosis given when a patient doesn’t have cancer can mean an unnecessary burden of painful treatments. On top of experiencing the daunting physical effects of cancer treatment, a patient’s mental health takes a toll.

Heart Attack

Doctors can mistake heart attacks for indigestion or panic attacks. Every second that doctors continue treating an incorrect diagnosis means further complications or death.


A common wrongful diagnosis for stroke is migraines.

Thyroid conditions

When a patient’s thyroid begins acting up, they will begin to feel weakness and fatigue, possibly some weight fluctuations and muscle pain. Thyroid conditions carry mild symptoms, and doctors can confuse them with depression.

When a Patient Can Sue for Wrongful Diagnosis

A patient must prove a doctor’s negligence caused harm. A doctor might make the wrong diagnosis, but if that diagnosis does not lead to any harm, then there are no grounds for litigation. There are many ways a doctor can harm a patient’s health via wrongful diagnosis.

A patient may receive more aggressive treatments than would have been necessary if a doctor had correctly diagnosed a condition sooner. For example, cancers that doctors didn’t notice are allowed to spread and need much more aggressive radiation or chemotherapy treatments than cancers that are diagnosed quickly. If a patient does not, in fact, have cancer and the doctor puts him or her on a course of cancer treatments, the pain, and suffering, as well as physical damages, from treatment, can be enough to claim harm. Any kind of unnecessary procedure that leaves scarring or disfigurement is also considered harm. Finally, any diagnosis that increases the chances of complications or death is also considered harm to the patient.

Getting Help

The statistics are very high that you or someone you know has been exposed to a wrongful diagnosis. If you need help determining if you can receive compensation for the harm you are someone you know has experienced due to medical malpractice, contact the Law Office of Michael Campopiano right away for a free consultation.