Diagnostic errors are a big problem in medicine

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP

While most of us can’t imagine being the victim of medical malpractice, cases of hospital and doctor errors are even more common than the general public may think. According to a new report in the Institute of Medicine, medical errors including missed and delayed diagnosis have not been given the attention they need.

What’s been called ‘a serious wake-up call’ by one doctor, the report suggests that the health care field is in need of urgent improvement, as the occurrence of diagnostic errors is shocking. The most recently publicized case being last year when a man from Liberia who was misdiagnosed with sinusitis, but was actually infected with the deadly Ebola virus. The patient returned to the hospital two days later and eventually died.

While few cases receive the attention that the Ebola case did, many patients experience diagnostic errors without even knowing it and therefore never report them. Fortunately, this may mean that for the majority of patients that have had a wrong or missed diagnosis, they are still capable of recovery. Unfortunately, this may also make an accurate report of diagnostic errors impossible. While the report may have limitations as to the accurate total for diagnostic errors, it does suggest that one in every 20 individuals seeking outpatient care will experience a diagnostic error each year. These errors actually account for the majority of paid medical malpractice claims, and are about two times as likely to result in death of a patient over other types of malpractice.

If you have been the victim of a diagnostic error or other type of medical malpractice, speaking to an experienced malpractice attorney may help. By holding responsible parties accountable for negligence, we can force attention to the problem and demand change.

Source: ABC News, “Study: Diagnosis Wrong Too Often, Urgent Improvement Needed”, Lauran Neerguaard, Sept. 22, 2015

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