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Medical misdiagnoses can lead to serious complications or death

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP

Nothing can be scarier than suddenly developing a variety of severe, unexplained symptoms without understanding the cause. In such situations, most people will visit either their primary care doctor or the emergency room, depending on the seriousness of their condition.

When individuals require medical care, they must place their trust in the treating physician to correctly diagnose their symptoms. Unfortunately, doctors do not always provide proper diagnoses, which can cause serious health consequences for the patient.

According to a study of 583 misdiagnoses conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in 2009, 28 percent resulted in either a permanent disability or the death of the patient. Based on data from a 1991 Harvard Medical Practice study, these errors are typically due to physician malpractice. The study revealed that 75 percent of misdiagnoses were the result of the doctor’s negligence.

Studies have also found that misdiagnoses in hospitals are more numerous than many might imagine. According to a study published in BMJ Quality and Safety, there are approximately the same number of fatalities caused by intensive care unit misdiagnoses as breast cancer each year. In total, around 40,500 lose their lives to the dangerous cancer and diagnostic errors in intensive care units annually.

New York residents: Take steps to protect yourselves from misdiagnoses

When a patient is faced with a serious medical condition, it is wise for the patient or his or her family to engage the treating physician in a conversation about the diagnosis. When the doctor diagnoses the patient, those involved should ask if the physician considered any other illnesses before settling on his or her diagnosis. If there were other possibilities, it is a good idea to ask why the doctor discounted the other options.

Although the environment may be intimidating, patients and their families should always take the time to ask the treating physician any questions they may have and bring up any concerns they have about the diagnosis itself.

Whether the patient has doubts about the diagnosis or not, it may also be a wise choice to seek the advice of another physician for a second opinion. Unlike other errors that appear obvious immediately – such as surgery performed on the wrong body part -a misdiagnosis may not become apparent for a long period of time. Therefore, having a second opinion can increase the chance of a misdiagnosis being caught before any serious harm can take place.

If you have been harmed due to a physician’s misdiagnosis, seek the advice of a skilled medical malpractice attorney to ensure your rights are protected.

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