When you go see a doctor for an illness or symptoms, you’re looking for answers. It’s the physician’s obligation to get a thorough medical history from you, followed by a detailed exam and any necessary testing, like lab work or radiology scans. At that point, the standard of care requires the doctor to form a differential diagnosis.
A differential diagnosis is a list of all medical conditions that may explain a patient’s symptoms, as well as the signs and findings identified during the physical exam and through any testing. Some conditions on the differential diagnosis list might not be serious, but others can be life-threatening.
It should come as no big surprise that the standard of care requires doctors to order extra testing to eliminate or rule out conditions off the differential diagnosis list, starting with the most serious or life-threatening one. To do anything else would needlessly endanger the patient.
Unfortunately, some doctors often skip the differential diagnosis process and settle on an easy, harmless, or most common diagnosis. Sometimes they might be right. Other times, their misdiagnosis leads to a delayed treatment and permanent injury or death of the patient.
If that happens, it’s active medical malpractice and you should contact an experienced Texas medical malpractice attorney immediately.
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Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas.