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Misdiagnosis and Children: When the Healer Causes More Harm than Good

Parents expect quality care from their child’s pediatrician. They expect that any condition their child develops will be identified promptly and treated effectively. Tragically, this is not always the case, as even well-meaning doctors sometimes make mistakes when attempting to treat little ones, particularly if the primary symptoms are present in more than one condition. Misdiagnosis is common in younger children since they often cannot verbalize the extent of their symptoms, thus leading the doctor to make incorrect decisions not solely due to a lack of experience or sheer negligence, but because they have incomplete information. No matter the reason why, though, wrongfully diagnosing a child can be a life-altering experience not only for the child, but also for his or her family.

A Prime Example of Misdiagnosis

The media and medical experts have been aware of some misdiagnosis issues in children for years, especially involving conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and attention deficit disorder (ADD). A child wrongly diagnosed with one of these disorders will often be put on medications that bring about their own negative side effects (like nausea and fatigue or can even cause heart disease, liver damage or, in the worst case scenario, death). Plus, if a child’s condition is misdiagnosed and blamed on ADD or ADHD (or any other incorrect diagnosis), then the original condition – and the symptoms it caused – will continue untreated.

How to Tell if Your Child has been Misdiagnosed or Improperly Treated

If your child’s symptoms persist unabated, worsen, or new symptoms appear, there is a possibility that your child has either been misdiagnosed or has been given the wrong course of treatment. For example, if your child has a stomach ache that the doctor chalks up to a stomach bug and treats with nausea medication, but then the child develops a high fever, it is likely that antibiotics or some other additional treatment is still needed. In that case, either taking the child back to the diagnosing physician or to a different doctor for a second opinion is usually a good idea. Parents must be vigilant about their children’s health care and be strong advocates for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Helping Prevent Misdiagnosis

Parents are often a physician’s only source of information about a child patient, so it is important that parents bring forth as much knowledge as possible, including a detailed list of symptoms, the time frame of when the symptoms appeared, and how the child has reacted to home therapies (like over-the-counter medications, icepacks or bed rest, for example). It is also crucial that parents keep an updated list of medications that their child takes on a regular basis to help prevent possibly life-threatening drug interactions that a doctor outside of the child’s primary care network would have no way of preventing.

As parents, we want to do what is best for our children, which includes getting them appropriate medical treatment when needed, but our good intentions go astray when our child is misdiagnosed. Has your child been wrongly diagnosed, leading to permanent bodily harm, incompatible prescription drugs, unnecessary medical bills, hospitalization or other serious effects? If so, speaking with an experienced wrongful diagnosis attorney in your area will give you more information about your legal rights and options you may have to hold the providers accountable.