Proper treatment for a medical condition hinges on a correct diagnosis, but the wrong diagnosis can be a death sentence. Valuable treatment time is wasted. Conditions may worsen. And, in some cases, the wrong treatment can be dangerous. Unfortunately, the misdiagnosis of medical conditions happens all too often—a lot more frequently than most people realize.
Diagnostic Error Statistics
According to the study from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), diagnostic errors (inaccurate or delayed diagnoses) touch five percent of all Americans seeking outpatient care each year. Postmortem examinations reveal that those errors contribute to approximately 10 percent of all patient deaths, and a review of patient medical records suggests that such errors could be responsible for up to 17 percent of all adverse events in hospitals. However, what is most concerning about all of this is that, for the most part, diagnostic errors have not gone largely discussed and are highly underresearched.
Reporting of Medical Errors Not Considered Part of Standard Care
When a patient is seeking a second, third, fourth, or any subsequent opinion, it is very rare for the medical misdiagnosis to be shared or discussed with physicians that may have previously seen the patient. Reporting of those errors to medical boards or other government agencies is not a requirement either. And so, information on diagnostic errors relies heavily on postmortem examinations (which have declined drastically over the last several years) and the number of lawsuits pertaining to medical errors.
Diagnostic Errors in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
Occasionally, a diagnostic error will be so drastic that it makes headlines, typically they go unreported, despite the level of impact they often have on the lives of patients. Yet diagnostic errors make up the bulk of medical malpractice claims, and, when compared to other types of malpractice claims, they are nearly twice as likely to have caused a patient's death. Clearly, something must be done to reduce the impact of diagnostic errors—and the solution does not rest solely in the pursuit of malpractice claims.
Handling a Suspected Misdiagnosis
Patients often know when something is wrong, but they do not always know what to do about it. Although the responsibility of changing things should not rest solely on the patients themselves, there are some things that can be done to potentially decrease the damage of a diagnostic error, such as:
- Seeking a second, third, fourth, or any further opinions necessary;
- Keeping a personal, detailed record of symptoms, former diagnoses, and test results that can be easily presented to each new physician during the initial visit;
- Talking openly with physicians about concerns, even if met with resistance;
- And expressing why a particular diagnosis feels “wrong.”
Affected by a Diagnostic Error? Seek Professional Legal Assistance
Medical malpractice cases can be lengthy and extremely complex. Evidence must be gathered. Expert witnesses must often testify that the doctor deviated from the standard of care. And it must be proven that the physician's actions or inactions were the cause of suffering. This is why professional legal assistance is so crucial to ensuring the protection of victims and their rights.
At Hurley, McKenna & Mertz, P.C., we understand just how much medical malpractice can impact the lives of innocent victims. Because of this, we work aggressively to ensure every case is thoughtfully and thoroughly represented. If you or someone you love has been impacted by a diagnostic error, contact our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys for a free consultation. Call us at [[phone]] today.