Failure to diagnose a serious illness such as cancer may constitute medical malpractice. When a patient experiences poor disease outcomes because of a missed or delayed diagnosis, he or she could be eligible for legal damages.

Learn how Illinois law defines failure to diagnose and the standard of proof required.

What is medical malpractice in Illinois?

The plaintiff who files a medical malpractice claim must prove that a health care provider with whom he or she had an existing care doctor-patient relationship did not follow the established standard of care. In the case of failure to diagnose, this means that the doctor did not identify a health condition that another doctor would have reasonably found in similar circumstances. The plaintiff must also prove that he or she experienced injury as a result of the negligent action or lack of action by the doctor.

How does the court determine whether the doctor violated the standard of care?

The standard of care varies for every patient. The court would review the plaintiff’s age, health status both before and after receiving medical treatment, and testimony from medical experts who practice within the relevant specialty area. In addition to failure to diagnose, action or inaction that could constitute medical malpractice may include prescribing the wrong medication, giving an incorrect diagnosis or making a surgical error.

The judge will not consider a missed diagnosis alone medical malpractice. He or she will look at the doctor’s differential diagnosis process to determine whether the doctor failed to include the pertinent condition, did not order appropriate tests or did not make a necessary specialist referral after the examination.

If you or a loved one experienced health complications after a missed diagnosis, you have two years to file a legal claim from the date on which you learned of the injury. In addition, you must file the claim no more than four years after the failure to diagnose. However, minors can file a medical malpractice suit up to eight years after the injury or until they reach age 22.