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Diagnostic errors are more common than many people realize

Posted by Brendan Faulkner of D'Amico & Pettinicchi, LLC on May 22, 2013 in Failure To Diagnose

One of the most frightening experiences that a person can go through is being sick and not knowing why. We go to the doctor and hope to get some information on what is wrong and how we can treat an ailment, but this does not always happen. In fact, in a surprising number of cases in Connecticut and nationwide, a doctor fails to diagnose a patient in a timely or accurate manner.

This mistake can end up costing a patient crucial treatment options which could  extend or improve a person's life. This is especially true for a cancer misdiagnosis. When a doctor fails to properly diagnose a patient's cancer, early treatment options may not longer be available by the time the devastating disease is diagnosed. Sadly, some reports suggest that these types of medical errors are more common than we realize.

According to estimates by patient safety advocates, a diagnosis that is delayed, incorrect or completely missed affects up to 20 percent of patients. This makes misdiagnosis more common than other medical mistakes that are discussed more widely, including wrong-site surgery and drug errors. 

The effect of a misdiagnosis can be devastating. Many types of cancer, for example, can be treated effectively with early detection. But too many doctors fail to run the proper tests or recognize certain symptoms that can typically be vital in diagnosing cancer early on. Sources suggest that time constraints on doctors and expensive medical testing contribute to the dangerously high level of missed diagnosis. 

Because it is a difficult problem to quantify and resolve, misdiagnosis is an issue that is often overlooked. Rather than addressing the severity of diagnostic errors, hospitals will often ignore the problem and many have no methods in place to track instances of misdiagnosis. 

At the end of the day, it is the patient who pays the ultimate price for these mistakes. Hospitals and doctors may try to ignore how devastating a misdiagnosis is, but victims can work with a Waterbury personal injury attorney to hold a negligent or reckless party accountable for the error. 

Source: Hartford Courant, "Misdiagnosis: More Common Than Drug Errors of Wrong-Site Surgery," Sandra G. Boodman, May 18, 2013