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When a misdiagnosis is a medical malpractice case

Although Granite City residents and those who live on the Illinois side of the Saint Louis area probably tend to think of doctors as the cream of the crop when it comes to having smarts, medicine is still too much of an unknown for even the best doctor not to make a mistake from time to time. Often, these errors entail not diagnosing a patient's true condition promptly.

On the other hand, when an Illinois patient goes to the doctor, he or she goes with the full expectation that the doctor will get the diagnosis right the first time so the patient can get better. If a doctor's mistaken diagnosis leads instead to a missed opportunity to treat a serious medical condition, or even directly causes a patient to get physically worse, then the patient has every right to be upset and want some justice.

When it comes to misdiagnosing a condition, what separates an understandable mistake from medical malpractice is the process that the doctor followed in coming to his or her conclusions in the first place.

In other words, doctors are expected to use a technique called differential diagnosis after they examine a patient. In lieu of just going with the doctor's best guess as to what ails his or her patient, the doctor must list all possible conditions that the doctor could be observing, although the doctor can and is even expected to rank these conditions in order of likelihood.

Once the doctor develops the list, he or she goes down it, running additional tests until the doctor verifies the patient's true medical condition or rules a condition out as a possibility.

A doctor who carefully follows this process will generally have some leeway for some trial and error. However, if a doctor leaves the patient's true condition off his or her list completely, or passes over it without definitively ruling it out from the list, a patient may have a medical malpractice case.

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