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Diagnostic Errors More Common Than You Think

Doctor is diagnosing a patient

Medical experts suspect that 1 in 20 patients who visit the doctor for illness experience a misdiagnosis or lack of diagnosis for his or her condition.

Diagnostic Errors Put Patients at Risk

Medical illnesses and diseases that are misdiagnosed or go undiagnosed put patients at risk for injury and death. The actual percentages of misdiagnosed and undiagnosed medical conditions are difficult to determine because there is no mechanism for reporting them. However, experts estimate that 5% of outpatient conditions are misdiagnosed or go undiagnosed completely. That equates to approximately 12 million adults in the U.S. seeking medical attention for some type of injury, illness, or disease every year.

  • Misdiagnosis – A misdiagnosis is an incorrect diagnosis of a medical condition. This can lead to improper or unnecessary treatments, wrong medications, prolonged illness, and complications that create dangers for a patient. If the condition is serious, misdiagnosis and improper treatment can lead to death.
  • Missed Diagnosis – A missed diagnosis means the medical condition is overlooked resulting in a lack of any diagnosis. This might mean no medical tests or treatments at all. A missed diagnosis can be dangerous for a patient if the overlooked condition is serious. If stomach problems are dismissed as gas, and the real problem is stomach or ovarian cancer, the patient may die from the condition without treatment or surgery.

While some medical conditions run their course without treatment, others may prove fatal. If a patient dies without a diagnosed medical condition, family members may request an autopsy to find out the cause of death. This is an expensive solution that is not always supported by medical professionals, especially if misdiagnosis or missed diagnosis is suspected.

A large percentage of injury claims and wrongful death lawsuits handled by medical malpractice lawyers stems from the misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, or missed diagnosis of a patient’s medical condition. However, misdiagnosis and diagnostic errors do not necessarily constitute a medical malpractice claim or ensure a successful outcome in a lawsuit.

For malpractice to be actionable, misdiagnosis or missed diagnosis must result in improper medical care, delayed treatment, or lack of treatment which leads to worsening of the patient’s medical condition. The patient must prove negligence on the part of the hospital or medical professional. This may be difficult without a medical malpractice lawyer who can collect proper evidence to support the case and file a lawsuit within the allowed two-year statute of limitations.

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