Q: About two years ago I had a substantial pain in my lower leg and foot. I went to my GP, had an MRI etc. and nothing was discovered. I was prescribed some painkillers in the hope that the pain would eventually become manageable. I was unable to do a lot of jobs around the home and found it very difficult to exercise. I put on some weight, which was naturally upsetting but also meant that there was more pressure on my foot. I recently sought a second opinion, and it turns out that there is a cyst. Due to the extra pressure on my foot, I have also developed a muscular problem which would not have occurred had the cyst been diagnosed in time. Is there anything I can do?
A: Your options would greatly depend on the exact circumstances surrounding the delay in your diagnosis. However, Medical Negligence must, before taking any steps against your Medical Practitioner, be thoroughly examined by a relevant medical professional – in your case probably an orthopedic surgeon who is willing to act as an expert witness.
Reports such as this would often have to be sourced outside of Ireland and can be costly, but it is an absolutely necessary step if you wish to proceed with the claim.
That expert would need to show that the failure to diagnose fell below the ordinary skill of an ordinary practitioner. Clearly the difficulties with your foot were causing you pain, whether or not the steps taken by your Medical Practitioners fall below the standard required would be a matter that could only be confirmed by the outside Expert.
Doctors are not expected, nor are they legally required, to make a correct diagnosis or suggest the correct course of action every time. Provided that they exercise the reasonable care expected of a reasonable medical practitioner, they would generally have a full defence to any action you might bring.
You should discuss this matter with your Solicitor as soon as possible. You would have two years from the date of knowledge, i.e., the date that you became aware that there was a delay in diagnosis within which to bring a claim. It can take some considerable time to complete the required Expert Report, and so you would be advised to take advices from your Solicitor without delay.
It would also be necessary for you to prove actual loss by reason of the delay in diagnosis. In your case, you have had to deal with pain on an ongoing basis, as well as the secondary muscular problem you have unfortunately encountered. Your Expert would need to confirm, as best as they can, that if you had the appropriate treatment at the appropriate time that you would have a reduced level of pain and a reduced chance of developing the secondary muscular injury.