Failure To Diagnose Serious Illnesses And Injuries
Diagnosing a disease early can be a matter of life and death. Even serious diseases like cancer can often be treated when they are addressed early. When a disease is misdiagnosed or not diagnosed in time, the outcome can be fatal. The stakes are particularly high in the case of triage in the emergency room. In a best-case scenario, a misdiagnosis may result in painful, long-term or invasive treatments when simple ones would have been available earlier.
Medical professionals are not omniscient, and certain mistakes are unavoidable due to incomplete information. That said, when a test or treatment is not ordered or information is not correctly interpreted when it should have been and patients are injured, it is important that the medical professional is held accountable.
Negligence in Diagnoses May Affect 12 Million
For many Charleston patients, it’s unthinkable that a doctor could make a health condition worse. Physician negligence can do that when there’s a misdiagnosis. While West Virginia doctors may not detect a health problem like cancer immediately, they are expected to reach a conclusion in a timely manner without ignoring symptoms.
It hasn’t been easy for researchers to count how many patients have been misdiagnosed. Most health care safety studies have been conducted in hospitals, where patients were treated for known conditions, or focused on malpractice claims, which represent a small sample of patients. Researchers for a study recently published in the journal BMJ Quality & Safety looked outside hospitals and courtrooms for evidence of doctors’ failures to diagnose.
The report’s information was gathered from patient records in clinics. Researchers looked at the frequency of sudden, repeat office visits, which are an indicator that a health condition got worse or didn’t improve. For part of the study, medical records of an isolated segment of colon and lung cancer patients were reviewed. The misdiagnosis rates then were applied to a national level, where about 80 percent of adults schedule a physician’s appointment annually.
The study found that about five percent of all adult patients seen yearly by doctors were misdiagnosed. This figure represents approximately 12 million people annually. For an estimated six million adults, doctor errors were harmful.
The researchers determined that these were low estimates since not all diagnostic mistakes could be detected through a medical records’ review. The implication is that even more patients might be suffering from doctors’ errors than the researchers found. The study urged other researchers, lawmakers and health care providers to concentrate patient safety efforts at the diagnostic level.
A delayed diagnosis may not cause harm. However, when it does, a patient may pursue damages if a misdiagnosis was due to doctor negligence.
Factors Leading to Misdiagnosis
According to JAMA medicine, there are certain factors that commonly lead to misdiagnosis. These include the following:
- Failing to properly evaluate the patient’s medical history
- Failing to order the right diagnostic tests and evaluate them correctly
- Practicing under a false license
- Attempting to diagnose patients with conditions that lie outside of their realm of expertise
- Neglecting to follow up on patients’ test results or symptoms
Some physicians overbook their schedules in order to see more patients and make more money. Doctors who do so often fail to perform comprehensive evaluations and may inadvertently overlook critical details regarding a patient’s condition. This can subsequently lead to a wrongful diagnosis.
According to The Washington Post, some medical environments are prone to misdiagnosis, including emergency rooms and after-hours clinics. When patients are seen by doctors who do not know their medical history and have a limited amount of time to spend with each patient, wrongful diagnoses are more likely to occur. Emergency room physicians have frequent interruptions, which can affect the accuracy of a diagnosis as well.
One little girl had to have her legs, left hand and fingers on her right hand amputated, after an ER nurse misdiagnosed the child as having a minor virus, according to a CNN News report. Instead, the child was suffering from an aggressive flesh eating bacteria that spread quickly throughout her body as she waited for medical attention.
Implications of a Misdiagnosis
When doctors give patients an inaccurate medical diagnosis, there are a number of things that can happen. The patient may be prescribed unnecessary medication that may have negative side effects or may exacerbate the actual condition. In some cases, a misdiagnosis may cause a patient to undergo needless surgery or painful treatment. While the patient is being treated for the wrong condition, the actual condition may have advanced into critical stages.
We Have The Necessary Medical Malpractice Experience
Having worked on medical malpractice issues for decades, our legal team at Johnstone & Gabhart, LLP, is prepared to work on any misdiagnosis issue, including:
- Delayed diagnosis of cancer: breast, colon, liver, skin/melanoma and lung
- Failure to diagnose and prevent a heart attack
- Failure to properly read charts, X-rays and mammograms
- Negligent treatment of diabetes
- Misdiagnosis of appendicitis
Regardless of your situation, we are prepared to bring our comprehensive knowledge, expertise and decades of experience to aggressively advocate for you.
Let’s Discuss Your Failure To Diagnose Claim Today
If you or someone close to you has suffered a serious injury because a medical professional was careless, negligent or inattentive in diagnosis, it is important to reach out to a team of lawyers that can inform you of your rights and obtain the compensation you deserve. Please speak with us at 866-228-4692 or contact us online today to learn more.