How Big a Problem Is Medical Misdiagnosis?

Gavel and StethoscopeMedical errors are now being considered one of the top causes of death in the country. This is a daunting statistic considering how often people go to hospitals, emergency rooms, and other healthcare facilities with serious and sometimes life-threatening conditions. We entrust our health to medical professionals who have spent years studying and training to get to this point in their career. Doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff members are still human, though, and mistakes can and do happen. Unfortunately, a medical mistake can result in life-altering injury or even death.

One of the most common errors is medical misdiagnosis. There are plenty of situations in which this can occur, but the effects are generally the same. For instance, take a patient who goes into the doctor and explains the symptoms he or she is experiencing. The symptoms are a bit generic, so they may belong to multiple conditions. However, it is the duty of the doctor to eliminate other possible conditions to determine the exact issue the patient is experiencing. If they negligently diagnose the issue as something other than what it is because they failed to eliminate other possibilities, this could be considered misdiagnosis and could have serious effects on the patient.

According to recent data from a health advisory committee with the Institute of Medicine (IOM), most Americans will experience at least one misdiagnosis in their lifetime[1]. The report also shows that each year, there are roughly 12 million instances of misdiagnosis and other diagnostic errors. Patient safety experts have claimed that these types of situations are not rare and can exist in about 10 to 20% of cases. This is more than harm caused by surgical errors or medication errors, both of which gain more attention for the injuries sustained by patients[2].

A report[3] from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality recently showed that out of a study of 583 diagnostic errors, 28% of them were life threatening and resulted in either death or permanent disability. Similarly, BMJ — formerly the British Medical Journal — did a meta-analysis study regarding diagnosis errors in intensive care units in the United States[4]. The study showed that these errors resulted in about 40,500 deaths, the same number as those caused by breast cancer annually. These are just part of the roughly 250,000 estimated annual deaths resulting from medical errors[5].

Diagnosing a patient isn’t easy, but doctors are afforded access to countless resources they need to help determine what condition a patient has, even with new diseases emerging constantly. Unfortunately, there are times when misdiagnosis is simply the result of oversight on behalf of a doctor or nurse. When this happens, the wrong tests are ordered, the wrong treatment is prescribed, and the condition has the opportunity to worsen. With life-threatening conditions, early diagnosis is important. Misdiagnosis can cause delayed treatment, which often means it is too late to apply an effective cure.

How a Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyer Can Help You

When medical misdiagnosis causes you or someone you love serious harm, you may have the right to take legal action against the negligent doctor, nurse, or other medical professional. You shouldn’t have to deal with the effects of someone else’s mistake, especially when it causes physical, emotional, and financial hardships. Let our Philadelphia medical malpractice attorneys at The Beasley Firm represent you and help you seek the compensation — and justice — you deserve after a misdiagnosis.

Let us protect your rights every step of the way. Contact our firm today and learn how we can seek the favorable outcome to your potential case.