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Delays in Medical Treatment: When Is It an Actionable Case?

April 09, 2022
Delays in Medical Treatment: When Is It an Actionable Case?

When a doctor or other medical provider chooses to delay treating a patient, that patient may suffer injury or other physical harm as a result. However, not every delay in medical treatment constitutes medical malpractice practice. 

Causes of Delayed Treatment

One of the primary causes of delayed treatment is medical providers not knowing the patient’s actual condition. When a patient appears with various symptoms, those symptoms may point to any number of potential conditions. Doctors and other healthcare providers may choose to delay treating the patient’s symptoms and condition until they can confirm what the patient is exactly suffering from. Treating a patient for the wrong illness or health condition can actually cause greater harm or injury. Of course, simply waiting will only cause the patient’s condition to worsen. 

Normally, providers are expected to follow guidelines in diagnosing and treating a patient when they present with symptoms that suggest multiple possible conditions. When a medical professional fails to follow these guidelines without a reasonable justification that would cause other professionals to also deviate from the guidelines, that can give rise to an actionable medical malpractice case. 

Consequences of Delayed Treatment

Doctors and other medical providers will obviously hold off on treating a patient until they have diagnosed their condition, to avoid giving them the wrong treatment that may end up causing the patient additional harm. But delaying treatment for a patient for too long can have consequences of its own. The effectiveness of treatments for many conditions and diseases can wane the longer the disease or condition is allowed to progress. After enough time, a condition or disease may become severe enough to need more intensive treatment to have any hope of success in battling the condition, or the patient’s condition may become so dire that no treatment is likely to help them recover. 

For example, many cancers can be easily treated with a high prognosis of recovery at an early stage. Once a cancer reaches a more advanced stage, a patient may require more intensive treatments like chemotherapy or surgery.

When Can a Medical Professional Be Held Liable for Delayed Treatment?

A medical professional or treatment team may be held liable for a patient’s delayed treatment when they deviate from the accepted standard of care in the patient’s case. The standard of care is generally defined as the actions and decisions that other medical providers of similar training and experience would undertake in identical circumstances. In other words, if the decision to delay treatment is not one that most other doctors or medical professionals would have made in the patient’s case, the patient’s provider may be found liable for medical malpractice. 

Evidence that is often used to prove legal liability for delayed treatment includes:

  • Medical records from the patient’s treatment, including test results, doctor’s notes, and patient history and exam notes
  • Video surveillance footage
  • Witness testimony
  • Staffing records
  • Expert witness opinion testimony that describes the applicable standard of care and how a provider’s decision to delay treatment failed to comply with that standard

Contact A Medical Malpractice Attorney for a Consultation About Your Delayed Diagnosis Case in Pennsylvania

Were you or a loved one injured due to medical malpractice in Pennsylvania? Then you need to talk to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible for guidance on how to proceed. The Pittsburgh delayed diagnosis attorneys at Berger Lagnese & Paul, LLC are prepared to assist you with your legal claim. We represent victims of negligent surgeons, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists throughout Pennsylvania, including Butler, Cranberry Township, Erie, and Greensburg. Call us today at (412) 471-4300 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation. Our main office is located at 310 Grant St., #720, Pittsburgh, PA 15219.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

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