How often do diagnostic errors happen?
Diagnostic errors are far more common than we'd like, and they often go unreported. This means that many diagnostic errors do not even come to the attention of patients, who go on living with the harm inflicted upon them. No doctor can be expected to diagnose every condition perfectly, but physicians are expected to follow established standards of care and correctly interpret test results. Unfortunately, many fail to do so.
What are the most common diagnostic errors?
In the hands of an overworked, stressed, or underqualified healthcare provider, the possibility for error increases. Diagnostic errors can take on many forms, including:
- Misread lab reports
- Wrong patient identity
- Ignorance of patient complaints and dismissal of symptoms (e.g., dismissing chest pains as simple anxiety when a cardiac event is the true issue)
- Cancer misdiagnosis
- Delayed diagnosis
- Heart disease misdiagnosis
Millions of primary care visits go on every year, creating the potential for an incredibly high amount of diagnostic errors. Patients often don't receive enough time in face-to-face visits: Fifteen minutes has become standard in many areas, and that simply isn't enough time to accurately assess and lay out treatment for a condition that may not be obvious. Patients should not have to rely on second opinions for proper, correct diagnoses.
How serious are diagnostic errors?
Diagnostic errors can have fatal consequences. Some of the deadliest sorts lie in the wrongful diagnoses of heart disease and cancer, two conditions that can quickly become life-threatening. Left undiagnosed or diagnosed improperly, a condition could be endured in the form of chronic pain or illness management that does little to alleviate the true nature of the underlying problem. For example, a simple skin blemish could easily be a melanoma, incorrectly assessed by an inexperienced provider who may see an oddly shaped mole and see no need for a biopsy.
This patient could end up being diagnosed correctly later on by another provider while suffering from an advanced stage of cancer that will cost them thousands in medical bills to treat; if the cancer had been properly diagnosed earlier, the prognosis could have been significantly better. Instead, their health and quality of life is now compromised.
Do I need a lawyer?
In order to have a case for medical malpractice based on diagnostic errors, your situation must meet several criteria:
- Proof that a doctor-patient relationship existed
- Proof of negligence in diagnostic procedure, such as failing to order a medically indicate test or misinterpreting test results
- Negligence was the cause of patient injury
Any harm caused by misdiagnosis should be addressed as soon as possible and taken to legal counsel. You do need a lawyer in order to fight for and receive compensation for the damages that have been inflicted upon you by the healthcare system. A skilled attorney can help you take your case to trial and beyond. Many medical malpractice claims are attributed to diagnostic errors with hospitals or supervising doctors held liable. You deserve to have your case taken seriously.
Contact us today to have your case evaluated for free. You shouldn't have to deal with the consequences of a medical mistake alone. We can help. Call attorney Joseph F. Brown.