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Differential diagnosis should help prevent wrongful death

Many Illinois residents find going to the doctor to be a stressful experience. An individual might be concerned about what the doctor will find, what the treatment will entail, and whether surgery may be necessary. Fortunately, most doctors are well-trained professionals who have a strong foundation of knowledge on which to build their medical opinions. However, not all medical professionals perform their duties in a competent fashion, which could lead to negative consequences for patients, including death.

One way that such medical malpractice may arise is via misdiagnosis. A wrong diagnosis or a missed diagnosis can lead to a worsened medical condition and in some cases, death. In an attempt to identify a correct diagnosis, doctors perform what is known as differential diagnosis. Through this process, the physician considers the various medical conditions that are consistent with the patient's symptoms, beginning with the most likely condition and working down to the least likely. As the doctor works through the list of possible conditions, he or she runs tests to rule out certain diagnoses and narrow down the field. A doctor should eventually narrow the list down and make an accurate diagnosis.

Tragically, sometimes doctors either fail to identify a correct diagnosis during this procedure, or they fail to properly rule out certain conditions. A doctor may fail to initiate key tests or improperly read test results. This could lead to patient death and significant losses for a surviving family.

Though nothing can truly heal the pain caused by the loss of a loved one, a wrongful death lawsuit may provide financial relief. To succeed on such a claim, certain legal elements must be shown to have been present and to have caused the death, and the extent of damage must be proven. Those who believe that their loved one died as the result of a failure to diagnose or a misdiagnosis may want to speak with a legal professional to learn more about their options.

Source: FindLaw, "Failed/Erroneous Diagnosis and Treatment," accessed on Aug. 13, 2016

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