During pregnancy and shortly after birth, the health of an infant and mother greatly rely on the knowledge and care of medical professionals. Although in most cases, experienced physicians and medical staff members have the knowledge, experience, and training to competently care for a mother and infant’s medical needs, there is unfortunately the risk that mistakes will be made and health issues will be overlooked. Medical mistakes can take on a variety of forms, some minor, while others, such as failing to diagnose a health issue, can lead to life-threatening health complications and even death.
What Exactly is Failure to Diagnose?
Failure to diagnose simply means your healthcare provider failed to properly detect and diagnose an illness or condition that could have otherwise been treated. This can happen if the healthcare provider completely misses the condition or misdiagnosing the condition as something else. In cases of failure to diagnose a condition while a patient is pregnant, during delivery, or shortly after birth, it’s considered medical malpractice if it leads to birth injuries to your infant or any injuries to you.
It’s important to note, however, that not all cases are considered medical malpractice if a failed diagnosis occurs, For instance, you must have a medical relationship with your healthcare provider, such as a physician-patient relationship. A doctor who offers you poor advice yet isn’t your primary doctor isn’t liable for you or your baby’s injuries. In addition, your doctor’s failure to diagnose must be what caused you and/or your infant’s injuries. For example, even if you doctor failed to diagnose gestational diabetes, you cannot sue for injuries if a slip and fall accident leads to injuries. In other words, the injuries must have come from the condition that your doctor didn’t diagnose but otherwise should have.
Common Reasons for Failure to Diagnose
- Failure to monitor and detect maternal infections
- Failure to monitor and detect gestational diabetes
- Failure to conduct a proper physical exam and review the mother’s medical history
- Failure to order proper screenings and tests
- Failure to detect fetal distress
- Failure to detect and diagnose if the infant is in the breech position or when the infant is too large for a normal delivery
- Failure to diagnose and treat infant health problems such as jaundice
- Failure to detect, diagnose, and treat maternal preeclampsia
Consequences of Failure to Diagnose
The outcome after a physician fails to diagnose a health condition will depend upon the type of condition as well as the severity. For example, if infant jaundice isn’t diagnosed and treated, babies are at risk for brain damage, cerebral palsy, and hearing loss. If a maternal infection isn’t diagnosed and treated, such as a placental infection, the infant may be at risk of oxygen deprivation, cognitive disabilities, and newborn death. Other consequences of a failed diagnosis may include:
- A surgery that could have been prevented (maternal and/or infant)
- Permanent physical injuries to the infant
- Infant developmental delays
- Infant nerve damage
- Infant stroke
- Reduced infant blood flow
- Erb’s palsy
- Brachial plexus injuries
Keep in mind that the aforementioned conditions are among a few of the risks associated with failure to diagnose. Again, the outcome will depend on the exact cause of the condition and the severity, and not all birth injuries will be the same. While one infant may suffer hearing loss after un-diagnosed and untreated jaundice, another baby may develop cerebral palsy without any hearing problems. The aforementioned risks should be used as a guideline of common examples only. If you have additional questions and concerns, be certain to speak with a trusted health care professional and/or retain the services of a birth injury attorney.