Last Updated on April 30, 2024

Common Types of Medical Misdiagnosis & Their Consequences

Medical misdiagnosis is a medical professional’s failure to accurately identify a patient's condition. Any damages (economic and non-economic) incurred through medical misdiagnosis should be legally compensated by liable healthcare professionals.

As such, incidents of misdiagnosis prevent patients from getting timely medical attention – sometimes exposing them to irrelevant or potentially harmful prescriptions. Apart from the medical drawbacks they may experience, such errors also spill out to all other aspects of their life – affecting their well-being and their relationships with loved ones.

As cited in an earlier study, misdiagnosis is the leading cause of medical malpractice claims (26% of cases studied); rivaled only by surgical accidents (25%).

They also found these three main categories of medical misdiagnosis:

No-Fault: Refers to cases wherein symptoms are unusual or silent, causing patients to report confusing descriptions of their ailment.

System-based: Refers to misdiagnoses brought upon by technical malfunction or organizational incompetence. Healthcare facilities and professionals can be legally pursued for such errors.

Cognitive-Failure: Refers to cases wherein doctors failed to make enough considerations for their patient’s condition. Limited patient examination, hasty conclusions, and failure to double-check are some examples. In such cases, legal compensation should be provided by at-fault medical providers.

From 2021 to 2023, about 10,000 medical malpractice compensations were recorded by the National Practitioner Data Bank annually. Claims over this 3-year period were compensated with $382,627.5 on average.

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Some of the typical medical misdiagnosis can be classified into the following:

False Positive

This occurs when patients do not actually have whatever disease they are diagnosed with.

Probable Consequences
Doctors prescribe unnecessary prescriptions and treatments. Patients may suffer from long-term side effects from these unwarranted treatments down the line. Such misdiagnoses can also induce financial and psychological stress among patients – both of which could impact their overall well-being

False Negative

This occurs when a patient is cleared for a health condition that they actually have.

Probable Consequences
All treatments/medical attention a patient needs are effectively delayed – allowing a disease to progress and making it harder to cure when it is finally detected. Such errors do not only upset a patient’s quality of life but could also diminish their chance of survival.


This occurs when available symptoms are misattributed to another medical condition a patient does not have.

Probable Consequences
While patients are provided with medical attention, treatments prescribed by doctors are wrong and do not really cure patients’ diseases. With improper medication, the actual disease still progresses. Patients are also at risk for long-term side effects. All resources spent for the initial set of treatments are effectively wasted.


This is when a patient is diagnosed with a more severe condition when their disease has not actually progressed in reality.

Probable Consequences
Patients are prescribed more aggressive treatments. While these treatments could still be effective in some cases, long-term side effects are still important considerations. Patients could also be subjected to unnecessary invasive procedures. They may also face financial and psychological stress.


This is when a patient's condition is downplayed when their conditions have in fact progressed severely.

Probable Consequences
Patients are provided with limited and insufficient treatment options, ultimately allowing the disease to still progress. Health complications may also arise in the long run – reducing their quality of life and lowering their survival rates.

Missed Comorbidities

This is when a patient’s condition has multiple considerations, but only one or some are diagnosed/acknowledged.

Probable Consequences
Doctors fail to provide complete and holistic treatments that could effectively battle the conditions a patient is facing. By failing to address related diseases, doctors effectively increase the risk of health complications for their patients.

Conditions That Are Often Misdiagnosed

Despite advancements in available technology and medical techniques, many conditions remain at great risk for misdiagnosis. Due to vague or overlapping symptoms, some conditions can be easily misdiagnosed by negligent healthcare providers. Limited screening tests for some conditions also contribute to these errors.

Some of the more commonly misdiagnosed health conditions include (but are not limited to):

  • Cancers
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Endocrine disorders
  • Neurological disorders
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Mental health disorders

If you’re a victim of medical misdiagnosis, we advise that you contact a legal counsel right away. Medical malpractice lawyers can help victims of misdiagnosis establish their claim. These legal experts work with trusted medical consultants to pinpoint all negligences of and liabilities for at-fault healthcare providers. Furthermore, your legal team should help you in gathering all relevant pieces of evidence and negotiating for legal compensation.

Is Misdiagnosis Considered as Medical Malpractice?

Misdiagnosis can be considered medical malpractice when it results from a healthcare provider's negligence – meaning that the provider failed to adhere to the accepted standard of care in the diagnostic process. This may involve failing to thoroughly evaluate a patient's symptoms; not ordering appropriate diagnostic tests; misinterpreting test results; or failing to provide referrals to consult respective specialists.

However, not all instances of misdiagnosis are considered malpractice. To prove malpractice, the patient must demonstrate that the healthcare provider's negligence directly caused them harm.

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Establishing a Medical Malpractice Claim

Four key elements need to be established before a medical malpractice claim is rendered valid. These key elements are:

Duty of Care – Was there an appropriate patient-doctor relationship?
Breach of Duty – Did your doctor perform poorly/negligently based on accepted standards of care?
Causation Did your doctor’s actions/inactions directly cause you harm?
Damages – What did the medical malpractice cost you?

When accounting for damages, both economic and non-economic losses are considered. Apart from medical expenses, emotional trauma, lost wages, and decreased quality of life are only some losses that are typically added into the mix. For actual compensation figures – especially for cancer misdiagnosis – please refer to our previous wins.

Speak to a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today

At the Porter Law Group, we take pride in helping families rebuild from unfortunate circumstances. We do our best so that our clients may get the compensation they rightfully deserve. If you have any questions regarding cancer misdiagnosis, please reach out for a non-obligatory free consultation.

You may also contact us at 833-PORTER9 or to schedule an appointment. If you are looking to pursue further legal action, we operate on a contingency basis – meaning you don’t have to pay anything unless we win.

Written By
Michael S. Porter
Personal Injury Attorney
Originally from Upstate New York, Mike built a distinguished legal career after graduating from Harvard University and earning his juris doctor degree from Syracuse University College of Law. He served as a Captain in the United States Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, gaining expertise in trial work, and is now a respected trial attorney known for securing multiple million-dollar results for his clients while actively participating in legal organizations across Upstate NY.
Legally Reviewed on April 30, 2024
Eric C. Nordby
Personal Injury Attorney
Eric, with nearly three decades of experience in personal injury litigation, holds a law degree with honors from the University at Buffalo School of Law and a Bachelor's Degree from Cornell University. His extensive career encompasses diverse state and federal cases, resulting in substantial client recoveries, and he actively engages in legal associations while frequently lecturing on legal topics.
This Article Was Professionally Reviewed
This page was Legally Reviewed by Eric C. Nordby on April 30, 2024. Our experts verify everything you read to make sure it's up to date. For information on our content creation and review process read our editorial guidelines. If you notice an error or have any questions about our content please contact us.
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