Misdiagnosis is the primary cause of medical malpractice claims involving children aged one month to 17 years. It’s the second most common factor in claims involving babies under one-month-old.
Why is this?
Children aren’t always easy to diagnose
While doctors have a duty to do their best to diagnose everyone correctly, regardless of age, it’s fair to say that diagnosing children can be more challenging than diagnosing adults.
They can’t always respond clearly
Very young children can’t talk, toddlers may not be able to form many whole words and some teenagers can struggle to articulate themselves clearly on the best of days.
Most children won’t know much about particular illnesses either, because they have not come across them yet.
If an adult goes to a doctor with a complaint, there’s a good chance they have some idea of what is wrong, because they’ve read about it or knew someone else who had similar symptoms and got a particular diagnosis.
The adult can mention their thoughts to the doctor, giving them a lead. With children, the doctor has to work it all out themself or rely on third-party descriptions and translations from a parent.
Does that mean it’s not the doctor’s fault if they misdiagnose?
Not at all. The doctor is still acting as a paid professional with a duty of care toward the patient. While getting the correct diagnosis can be harder with children, doctors have a duty to put in that extra work.
Doctors get it right most of the time, so, if one doesn’t you may want help to understand why they didn’t and if you can hold them responsible for any harm your child suffered as a result.