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Diagnostic failures and errors are a common form of malpractice

On Behalf of | Jul 12, 2023 | Medical Malpractice

The concept of “medical mistakes” calls to mind immediately obvious errors, like a surgeon performing an operation on the wrong part of the body or a nurse administering the wrong drug. These medical errors may result in immediate harm to a patient. However, many serious medical mistakes aren’t noticeable at first. In fact, people may only learn about them after someone dies or ends up hospitalized.

One of the most basic responsibilities that a doctor has when treating a patient is to diagnose them accurately. Doctors receive years of training concerning the diagnostic process, and the process of reaching an accurate diagnosis is often a lengthy one. A careful review of symptoms and special tests are often necessary. And despite their extensive education, doctors sometimes take shortcuts or jump to conclusions. Unfortunately, diagnostic errors are one of the most common and serious medical mistakes that take place in the United States each year.

How many diagnostic errors happen annually?

Establishing that a doctor made a major medical mistake often requires the patient going back for medical care again or a post-mortem examination of their body after they die. For example, an autopsy might determine that someone had cancer, although their doctor may have dismissed their pain and other concerning symptoms as related to a minor infection.

The number of cases each year where physicians fail to accurately diagnose someone is shockingly high. Estimates indicate that as many as 12 million notable diagnostic errors take place in the United States every year. These include both times when doctors don’t diagnose someone at all and also times when they reach the wrong diagnostic conclusion. Researchers believe that those millions of mistakes lead to between 40,000 and 80,000 deaths each year. No matter how stressful a work environment is or how basic someone’s symptoms appear to be, doctors should either confirm the actual cause of someone’s symptoms or rule out other causes before reaching a conclusion.

Both patients who have suffered due to an error and those who have lost loved ones may be able to take legal action against a professional or facility responsible for a diagnostic mistake. Recognizing that a diagnostic error could be grounds for a medical malpractice claim can help people to seek justice when a doctor’s mistakes result in harm.