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Study: Missed diagnoses commonly cited in malpractice claims


Posted by Brendan Faulkner of D'Amico & Pettinicchi, LLC on Jul 29, 2013 in Failure To Diagnose

Dealing with health issues can be very stressful, especially when a person does not understand what exactly the cause of the problem is. In general, we go to the doctor and maybe take some tests and we expect to receive a diagnosis. Once the cause of an illness or injury is established, patients can move towards recovery. But what if a condition is not properly identified in a timely manner? 

In many of these cases involving delayed or missed diagnoses, a person's health is put in jeopardy. Without an accurate diagnosis, treatment options can end up being harmful or ineffective. But a recent study identified a troubling fact about missed diagnosis and the consequences of this type of medical malpractice.

The study looked at journals from across the world that documented malpractice claims and found some troubling results. Among primary care doctors, between 26 and 63 percent of malpractice claims involved a missed diagnosis. The most common consequence of the reported errors was death, which reportedly happened in up to 48 percent of the cases included in this study.

The missed diagnoses ranged in severity. There were doctors who failed to properly diagnose conditions such as a fractured bone. There were also cases involving ectopic pregnancies, meningitis and appendicitis. But according to the report, misdiagnosis of cancer and chest pain was the most common error cited in malpractice claims.

These types of medical errors and oversights can be life-threatening for patients. Too often, these kinds of mistakes are made because systems can work against providing quality care. Testing is expensive, doctors are overwhelmed with heavy patient loads and communication between hospitals in terms of medical records is far from perfect. Each of these issues can threaten patients if nothing is done to address the problem.

Making the decision to file a medical malpractice lawsuit can be very troubling for patients. Many people may avoid filing a claim because they do not believe that a medical error was intentional or significant. But all too often, these mistakes put a person's health in danger. Patients who report these errors and hold negligent or reckless parties accountable for substandard or dangerous care practices can end up saving another person's life.

 Source: CBS News, "Most common medical malpractice claims for missed cancer, heart attacks," Ryan Jaslow, July 19, 2013