Medical Misdiagnosis

Wrong answer

When doctors don’t reach the right answer

A doctor’s duty of care covers diagnosing health conditions and for many conditions such as cancer, infectious disease and medication side effects, a timely diagnosis is critical to receiving the right treatment.

When a doctor diagnoses the wrong condition or fails to diagnose anything at all there has been a misdiagnosis. Health conditions are often very complex and the task of diagnosing conditions can be very difficult for a doctor. However sometimes, unfortunately, a doctor’s failure is so bad that they cause the condition to get worse. This is when a medical negligence claim may arise.

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[accordion clicktoclose=true tag=p][accordion-item title=”What is a medical misdiagnosis?“]

A doctor owes their patient what’s called a ‘duty of care’.  The duty of care is to act reasonably and covers assessment of patients and diagnosis of conditions.

When you see a doctor they will conduct an assessment of your symptoms. This assessment might be in the form of asking you questions, conducting a physical examination, measuring blood pressure, checking your heart rate or ordering blood tests or x-rays. Depending on the findings, a doctor will then diagnose your condition and prescribe appropriate treatment.

A medical misdiagnosis occurs when the doctor fails to diagnose the correct condition. This may occur because the doctor has failed to competently conduct an assessment or misinterprets the results. This failure may then lead to incorrect treatment being prescribed or no treatment at all.

[/accordion-item][accordion-item title=”What are examples of medical misdiagnoses?“]Examples of misdiagnoses include failures to diagnose:

  • Cancers
  • Infections
  • Birth and pregnancy complications
  • Medication side effects

Misdiagnoses can also occur in surgeries and dental procedures. The correct diagnosis of a condition requiring surgery, or a person’s health status prior to surgery, are essential for safe outcomes. Additionally, only after properly assessing a condition can a doctor give proper advice to a patient about their treatment options, and the risks and benefits of each.

Elringtons has acted for many clients whose health condition was made worse by a misdiagnosis. For example:

  • We secured a $12 million settlement for a person who was incorrectly prescribed a medication over a long period of time. When the person started developing severe side effects, doctors misdiagnosed the signs, which tragically caused catastrophic results for our client. For more information see Elringtons secures $12million settlement.
  • We acted for a person against a dentist who failed to diagnose that they had perforated the person’s sinus cavity during a tooth extraction, leading to complications for many months.

[/accordion-item][accordion-item title=”Do I have a medical negligence claim?“]

This is a very complex question when it comes to medical misdiagnosis claims. This is because a doctor or hospital most often will not have directly caused the medical condition. Rather, what they did wrong is fail to diagnose the condition.

For you to have a medical negligence claim involving a medical misdiagnosis you must show that the misdiagnosis caused you an injury or your condition to get worse. For example, a cancer spreading to other parts of the body. If all you can show is that you received correct treatment later than you should have, but your condition didn’t get worse, then you cannot succeed in a medical negligence claim. This is because you have to show not only that the doctor or hospital was negligent, but also that what they did caused you further injury.

[/accordion-item][accordion-item title=”What compensation for my losses can I receive?“]

The types of compensation that may be awarded are:

  1. Previous lost wages for your time off work;
  2. If your injuries will affect your ability to work in the future, then your future lost wages;
  3. The cost of treatment, medications, disability aids and pain relief in the past and future;
  4. Care and assistance provided to you by family and friends;
  5. Pain and suffering; and
  6. Loss of enjoyment of life.

[/accordion-item][accordion-item title=”Why should I talk to elringtons about my medical negligence claim?“]

Medical negligence claims are not just another type of personal injury claim. Just as you would see a specialist for complex health conditions, you should see a specialist for a medical negligence claim. The best way to quickly find out whether you may have a claim is to talk to an expert. We have expertise in health and medical law and for Canberra, Queanbeyan and South East NSW, Matthew Bridger and Thomas Maling are the specialists in medical negligence claims.

We have:

  • Inside knowledge about the health industry (one of our lawyers was a Registered Nurse);
  • University acquired knowledge about injuries and disease; and
  • An understanding of how healthcare should be provided.


To see more about our expertise on medical negligence check out our health and medical law blog. No other firm in Canberra or Queanbeyan matches our expertise in this area.

For more information see our Medical Negligence page or to make an appointment in either our Canberra or Queanbeyan office please do not hesitate to contact Matthew Bridger or Thomas Maling:

p: +61 2 6206 1300 | e:

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