Can I Sue My Doctor for Misdiagnosis?

Every physician owes patients a reasonable standard of medical care. If a physician fails to perform at the accepted standard and a patient suffers as a result of his or her actions, the patient reserves the right to file a malpractice claim against those responsible. Failing to take appropriate steps during the diagnostic process and to make reasonable diagnoses based on the evidence does constitute malpractice, and you can sue your physician for the intentional or negligent mistake.


In 2015, a Michigan doctor pleaded guilty to purposefully misdiagnosing patients with cancer and treating patients with strong cancer drugs they did not need. He also pleaded guilty to Medicare fraud, receiving kickbacks, and money laundering. The doctor is currently serving a 45-year prison sentence. A misdiagnosis that leads a healthy person to believe he or she is sick is a nightmare. This extreme example does showcase patient vulnerability and the trust they put in attending physicians.

Most cases of misdiagnosis malpractice do not involve malicious and greedy physicians. Instead, they involve inadequately trained and careless ones. When a physician fails to order the appropriate test or to track down the possible illnesses associated with a set of symptoms, he or she may miss a diagnosis a similarly capable physician would see.

The are a variety of reason why a physician might offer the wrong diagnosis. Though some can’t be avoided, many can. The various causes of misdiagnoses may include:

  • Failure to test for reasonable medical conditions based on the evidence in a patient’s symptom profile.
  • Failure to refer patients to specialists when their own capabilities do not produce a medically viable diagnosis.
  • Failure to ask patients reasonable lines of questions surrounding a set of symptoms
  • Failure to interpret lab results per medical standards.
  • Leaving diagnostic procedures and interpretations in the hands of unqualified professionals.
  • Failure to communicate appropriately with patients, clinicians, and other medical professionals.
  • Failure to order a test.

The alarming results of a John Hopkins patient safety study published in 2016 reveal that as many as 250,000 patient deaths every year occur due to medical errors. The figure suggests errors kill more individuals than respiratory disease.


Some medical conditions increase the risk of misdiagnosis. The symptoms of these conditions may overlap with other illnesses, increasing the difficulty of diagnosis:

  • Sleep apnea. Some physicians may diagnose this oxygen related sleep disorder as depression. Around 73% of sleep apnea sufferers also experience depression symptoms due to the condition.
  • Lyme disease. This disease frequently affects people who live in the Northeast and can manifest as many other conditions including fibromyalgia, arthritis, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
  • Lupus. A disease that causes severe inflammation, it is often misdiagnosed, along with other auto-immune diseases. Because symptoms present as chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia, doctors can assume a patient’s condition is less serious than it actually is.
  • Bladder cancer. Bladder cancer is a fairly common type of cancer, but its symptoms can look at first like a simple infection or a urinary tract infection.
  • Infections. Infections are one of the most underdiagnosed issues, and they can result from a variety of issues – a virus that created a bacterial infection or a post-operative wound that becomes infected.


Most doctors have their patients’ best interest in mind, but there are some who – by greed or neglect – fail to put patients first. Individuals who discover a delayed, missed, or wrong diagnosis may want to speak to a Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer about their rights and ability to hold a negligent physician accountable for health outcomes, pain, and suffering.