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Alzheimer’s Misdiagnosis: When Can You Sue for the Wrong Diagnosis

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Alzheimer’s Misdiagnosis: When Can You Sue for the Wrong Diagnosis

Chicago Malpractice Lawyer Discusses Suing for Misdiagnosis of Alzheimer’s

Recently, an Ohio clinic found itself in the middle of multiple malpractice lawsuits when it misdiagnosed dozens of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. In one instance, a 33-year old patient who went to the clinic for assistance with memory retention issues and sleeping problems was told that he had Alzheimer’s disease.

It turned out that the facility diagnosing patients did not have a medical or psychology license, and upon further testing from another medical provider, it was found that the man did not have Alzheimer’s disease. That man is one of now 50 who have filed a lawsuit against the clinic’s former director and owner for being misdiagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Misdiagnosis is Becoming a Real Issue

Unfortunately, misdiagnosis is a common occurrence in the United States. With current demands on the healthcare system, physicians spend less and less time with their patients. In fact, in a survey concerning U.S. primary care physicians, it was found that most doctors spent 13 to 16 minutes with their patients, and some only spent under nine minutes. Previous studies found that female doctors spent more time with their patients than their male counterparts, but the numbers were still lower than one would hope to receive from a physician.

It should be no surprise that misdiagnosis issues are common. If a physician has only 13 to 16 minutes to assess a patient, that’s nowhere near adequate to listen to a patient’s complaints, examine the patient, and diagnose him or her.

A CBS News report highlighted that 12 million Americans are misdiagnosed by physicians each year, which turns out to be one out of every 20 adult patients; half of those cases had the potential to result in serious harm to the patient.

The Growing Issue of Alzheimer’s Disease Combined with Misdiagnosis: A Cause for Concern

Alzheimer’s disease is very common in the United States. If a patient exhibits similar symptoms to that of a patient who has Alzheimer’s, it should not be surprising that he or she is typically diagnosed with it.

In fact, 5.3 million Americans currently live with Alzheimer’s disease, and researchers estimate that 16 million will be affected by 2050. Worse yet, the disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the country. It is a real threat to public health, and something that doctors are on the lookout for.

However, most patients are not diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or affected by it until they are over 65, with most not showing symptoms until 85 years of age. So, if a patient is diagnosed well before 65, it should raise red flags.

Diagnosing Alzheimer’s Disease: Not an Accurate Process

Some tests can lead a physician to diagnose a patient with Alzheimer’s disease, but in reality, the disease can only be diagnosed with 100 percent certainty after the patient has died and a brain tissue autopsy is performed. Researchers have found that certain molecules are present in the blood and brain. MicroRNAs are now used to diagnose Alzheimer’s in clinical trial patients. However, more research is required before the test is used elsewhere.

As of now, no clinical test gives doctors a precise and accurate reading on Alzheimer’s disease. So, the physician must rely on the patient’s symptoms, rule out other causes of symptoms, and then determine an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

One study found that two out of ten patients are misdiagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and that the difference between clinical and pathological diagnosis was estimated at 20 percent. Those who were typically misdiagnosed suffered from other conditions, such as Lewy body dementia and brain atrophy. Also, some patients had Parkinson’s disease and vascular dementia. While some of these conditions are life-threatening, others can be treated – or at least managed with medication.

Patients who are misdiagnosed could miss opportunities for treatment or pay for treatments that they do not need, and their conditions could progress to the point where they are no longer treatable when the misdiagnosis is finally discovered.

Is a Misdiagnosis Eligible for Malpractice? It Depends.

Not all misdiagnosis cases are medical malpractice. Instead, it comes down to the doctor’s actions and whether those actions were below the acceptable standard of care. Misdiagnosis liability is evaluated the same as any other type of malpractice or negligence-based claim.

Therefore, the patient’s diagnosis and the actions the physician took would be compared to others in similar specialties, and how they would go about diagnosing a patient. Some instances where a misdiagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease could be considered malpractice include:

  • Not ruling out other causes of the patient’s symptoms.
  • Not conducting imaging or laboratory tests to help aid in the diagnosis.
  • Recognizing that patient has a history of accidents or other incidents that indicate trauma rather than a disease.
  • When compared to another doctor’s actions, the diagnosing doctor did not perform an assessment or take the steps necessary to conclude that Alzheimer’s disease was likely.

If, however, another physician would have made the same misdiagnosis error, then a claim is not going to win. After all, there is no definitive way to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease yet; therefore, physicians must rely on their expertise and other laboratory tests to help them come to that diagnosis.

If a physician performs due diligence and rules out other diseases or conditions that could cause a patient’s symptoms, but still misdiagnoses that patient with Alzheimer’s disease, he or she may not be negligent. However, if that doctor failed to provide the standard level of care that other physicians would have provided to conclude that a patient had Alzheimer’s disease, there may be a medical malpractice claim against the doctor, hospital, or treatment facility.

Medical Malpractice Cases Are Complex – Speak with an Attorney

Medical malpractice claims, and misdiagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease in particular, are incredibly complex. Your malpractice attorney must prove that the physician was not only wrong but that he or she was negligent when you were diagnosed incorrectly.

If you were misdiagnosed and suffered financial hardship, or even physical harm, you might have a case against the physician. Speak with a malpractice lawyer from Malman Law today about your case and explore your options. Schedule a consultation now by calling or contacting us online.

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