Many Americans expect that when they turn to their doctor with a medical problem that this professional will be able to correctly diagnose and treat their condition. Unfortunately, doctors fail to make a proper diagnosis of their patients’ conditions at an alarming rate in our country. According to a 2005 study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, autopsy reports reveal that doctors are wrong about a patient’s diagnosis 10 to 15 percent of the time.
A misdiagnosis can have serious and potentially fatal health repercussions for patients. Misdiagnosis can lead to improper treatment—and the pain and suffering that may come along with such unnecessary treatment. Misdiagnosis may also mean that the real condition is left untreated, which can result in the unchecked progression of the true underlying disease. This can lead to serious health complications and even death.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of a medical misdiagnosis, you do not have to suffer in vain. It may be possible for you to obtain compensation for your medical expenses, your losses, and your suffering. Our qualified medical malpractice attorneys have decades of combined experience successfully protecting the interests of people in need and can help see to it that you receive the help you need and deserve. Please contact our office today for a free and confidential consultation of your misdiagnosis case.
Most common types of misdiagnosis
While virtually any condition has the potential to be misdiagnosed by a negligent doctor, some conditions are more commonly misdiagnosed than others. The following are some of the most common conditions that are misdiagnosed in the United States every year. Unfortunately, such misdiagnoses can lead to serious injury and fatality, as one might imagine given the seriousness of the following conditions.
1. Cancer misdiagnosis. Cancer is the number one most frequently misdiagnosed condition in the United States, according to a Harvard study of medical malpractice cases. Many experts believe the primary cause of cancer misdiagnosis is the failure of a doctor to follow proper screening protocols.
2 . Infection. The same Harvard Medical study found that infection was the second most commonly misdiagnosed condition in hospitals and doctors offices across the US. In addition to the risks of failing to properly diagnose infections, hospital errors are also known to cause infections in patients. In fact, these hospital error-related infections kill 270 people every day.
3. Heart Attack. While many people may be surprised such a seemingly obvious condition is commonly misdiagnosed, heart attacks often have vague symptoms that a doctor can easily misdiagnose, including nausea, general discomfort and fullness in the chest. Studies have found that women are more likely than men to have a heart attack misdiagnosis.
4. Aortic dissection. While the symptoms of aortic dissection are often easy to diagnose, some patients with more vague symptoms are at risk of being misdiagnosed by their doctors. This very situation contributed to the death of famous actor John Ritter, whose widow won a legal claim over this fatal misdiagnosis.
5. Clogged arteries: Coronary artery disease and atherosclerosis are commonly misdiagnosed, which can lead to the progression of these serious diseases and cause undue injury and suffering to patients.
In order to prevent misdiagnosis, patients can take proactive measures to ensure they receive the correct diagnosis. While these steps can help, it is ultimately the doctor’s responsibility to make a correct diagnosis of your condition. Failure to do so can make him or her culpable for all subsequent suffering and loss you have been made to bear.
The following are some ways to avoid misdiagnosis:
- Ask for additional tests
- Ask your doctor what other conditions could produce similar symptoms
Experts say that the single most common cause of misdiagnosis is a doctor’s failure to consider other possible causes of a patient’s condition. (called premature closing)
- Follow up on all tests and don’t assume no news is good news
- Assume your doctors are not communicating with one another about your condition
- Don’t assume your doctors pass on vital medical information when shift changing
- If you are not sure, get a second opinion (or a third, or even a fourth)
Reasons to suspect misdiagnosis
In addition to strategies for preventing misdiagnosis, it is also helpful to know when to suspect that a doctor has made a misdiagnosis. The following are a few potential red flags indicating that misdiagnosis may be afoot.
- Your condition does not improve with treatment
- Your doctor’s diagnosis does not match your symptoms. This is where an internet search or a trip to the library can prove life saving.
- The diagnosis was made on the sole basis of one lab test
- Doctor attributes rare symptoms to common complaint, or vice versa
- The condition with which you’ve been diagnosed typically involves a test you never received
If you believe that your doctor may have made a misdiagnosis, you have some options: you can go back to this original doctor or you can go for a second opinion. While this can often happen before any major damage is caused, in many cases patients suffer as a result of misdiagnosis.
If you or a loved one has suffered serious harm or even wrongful death as a result of misdiagnosis, you have the legal right to seek compensation for your losses and suffering. Please contact our qualified and experienced attorneys at Aitken * Aitken * Cohn today to learn more.