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When a Physician’s Failure to Diagnose Causes Wrongful Death

Failure to diagnose a medical condition can cause serious health complications that can result in the wrongful death of a patient. Whether it’s cancer, a heart condition, respiratory ailment, neurological fault, etc., physicians and healthcare providers who fail to accurately diagnose a patient’s ailments can be held liable for the damages they inflict on patients and their loved ones.

The Duty of Care

Physicians and healthcare providers in Illinois have a duty of care to their patients that includes accurately assessing medical ailments during an examination as well as during any subsequent testing or review.

This duty of care includes:

  • Consideration and review of risk factors stemming from lifestyle, age, known medical conditions, and background, as well as known symptoms discovered during an examination or presented by the patient or their guardian.
  • Thorough and accurate diagnostic testing to determine the causes of the patient’s ailments as they relate to the symptoms they are exhibiting. This must also include accurate interpretation of results when they are received.
  • Consultation with peers within the medical community when questions or doubts regarding the symptoms or accuracy of test results arise.

Practicing medicine without providing a reliable duty of care to patients is negligent behavior and qualifies in Illinois as medical malpractice.

Establishing Claims for Wrongful Death

Illinois requires plaintiffs to establish that a physician or healthcare provider acted negligently during the course of an established patient/physician relationship. This negligence must be shown to have led to either delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis that resulted in the patient’s untimely death. For example, a plaintiff might establish that a physician failed to diagnose a treatable form of cancer long before it proceeded to a terminal stage.

In addition to direct liability, the healthcare facility where a physician is employed may also bear vicarious liability for the claim. This may exist whether the physician is working within a hospital or within a private practice LLC or LLP. Illinois statutes allow plaintiffs to hold these entities vicariously liable for the injuries and wrongful deaths caused by a physician. In many cases, it is not just one party that bears sole responsibility for the wrongful death, rather it is a series of individuals and entities that contributed to the death.

During a wrongful death case, wrongful death lawyers in Illinois utilize medical records and expert opinions to demonstrate the treatment a patient received as compared to the treatment they would have received under the care of a competent physician.