Diagnostic Errors by Doctor or Hospital
Research indicates that up to 30 percent of all medical diagnoses in the United States are wrong. For certain diseases — including Lyme disease, glaucoma, breast cancer and others — more than 60 percent of diagnoses may be missed or delayed. Diagnostic errors have real and tragic consequences, including incorrect choices of treatments, illnesses that continue to advance, permanent disability, and deaths.
A misdiagnosis occurs when a healthcare provider considers a patient’s medical status — including test results, symptoms and other clinical information — and reaches the wrong conclusion about the underlying disease or source for the medical evidence. A number of factors can lead to incorrect diagnoses:
- Flawed data from medical tests.
- Incomplete or wrong information given by a patient.
- Erroneous or incomplete knowledge on the part of a medical professional.
- Medical professionals reaching conclusions too quickly or failing to consider all possible medical explanations.
Serious Effects for Patients and Doctors
Multiple studies suggest that problems with diagnostic processes cause significant harm to patients, including an increased number of deaths, notes the National Institutes of Health.
But diagnostic errors also create major problems for medical providers; many malpractice lawsuits result from delayed or incorrect diagnoses of illnesses and injuries. From 1986 to 2010, diagnostic errors cost the medical industry nearly $39 billion in payouts for malpractice claims.
Types of Diagnostic Errors
Medical professionals can make diagnostic errors in several different categories:
- Misdiagnosis, or choosing the wrong illness.
- Delays in diagnosis. A physician eventually may make a correct diagnosis after a significant period of time has passed.
- Missed diagnosis. A doctor finds that a patient has no medical problems, but the patient actually suffers from a disease or illness.
- Failing to diagnose an associated illness. A doctor may correctly diagnose one condition but fail to diagnose another illness that is related.
- Failing to diagnose an unrelated illness. A doctor may correctly diagnose one disease but fail to diagnose another condition that is unrelated.
- Failing to identify medical complications or other factors that can make an existing condition worse.
Diagnostic Errors in the Emergency Room
Misdiagnosis and other types of diagnostic errors occur more frequently in emergency treatment facilities for a number of reasons:
- Pressure on medical professionals to act quickly.
- Injuries and illnesses that are more severe than in other medical settings.
- Uncommon conditions and illnesses are seen less frequently than in other medical settings.
Conditions that are frequently misdiagnosed in emergency rooms include strokes, heart attacks and meningitis. In children younger than 12, appendicitis is misdiagnosed between an estimated 28 and 57 percent of the time; in infants, the rate of misdiagnosis is estimated at nearly 100 percent.
How Do You Know if You’ve Been Misdiagnosed?
To protect yourself from a possible misdiagnosis, it’s important to trust your intuition. If you feel that a medical professional has made a diagnostic error, consider having additional tests conducted or getting a second opinion from a different doctor.
In addition, don’t be afraid to ask for more information about your diagnosis from a medical professional. Helpful questions can include:
- What other conditions could be causing my symptoms?
- How confident are you about your diagnosis?
- What additional tests could improve your confidence level in the diagnosis?
- Would additional tests change your proposed treatment of my condition?
- Do any of my symptoms contradict your diagnosis?
- What are some resources that can help me learn more about my diagnosis?
Conduct research of your diagnosis on your own, and make note of any information that does not jibe with your symptoms or with information your doctor has provided.
Compensation for Diagnostic Errors
Despite the significant human toll of medical diagnostic errors, mistakes alone typically do not result in successful litigation against doctors, hospitals and other medical providers.
To win a lawsuit based on a diagnostic error, your medical malpractice attorney will need to demonstrate that a medical professional’s actions or lack of action differed from how other doctors within the same field would have handled your case. If a reasonably competent doctor would not have made the same diagnostic mistake under the same circumstances, the medical professional who misdiagnosed you may have liability.
If a doctor or hospital is determined to be liable for a diagnostic error, you may be entitled to both economic and noneconomic compensation, including:
- Lost salary or wages.
- Loss of future earning potential.
- The future value of your lost earnings.
- Current and future medical bills.
- Mental anguish.
- Pain and suffering.
- Intangible benefits that you can no longer provide to your spouse and children.
Work with an Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorney
If a doctor or hospital has made a medical diagnostic error, you may suffer harm both now and in the future. Working with an experienced medical malpractice attorney is vital for ensuring that your rights are protected and that you receive compensation to which you’re entitled. To schedule a free consultation, please contact The Law Offices of Ivan M. Diamond.
The Law Offices of Ivan M. Diamond888 Grand Concourse #1L Bronx, NY 10451 Phone: (718) 588-2000 Ivan M. Diamond is available for home and hospital visits, as well as weekend and evening appointments.
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