Many people feel fear when a doctor provides them with a diagnosis. Whether they have a severe infection or early-stage cancer, a doctor’s significant diagnosis will potentially have an immediate impact on their daily life. Yet, it is also only after they receive the appropriate treatment that they can expect that their condition will improve. The diagnosis someone receives from a doctor is their first step toward the best possible prognosis given their condition.
Unfortunately, for a large number of patients each year, major diagnostic errors throw a wrench into the healing process. Some doctors fail to diagnose someone because they can’t connect their symptoms to a specific malady. Other times, doctors diagnose someone, but they reach the wrong diagnosis. Diagnostic errors might mean that someone does not receive the care they need or that they receive the wrong type of treatment.
How common are such medical mistakes?
Diagnostic errors are relatively common. According to a review of diagnostic errors established by later diagnosis or post-mortem analysis, diagnostic errors occur frequently every day. Researchers estimate that approximately 5% of patients in any given year will suffer some kind of diagnostic error that could impact their medical care.
The true number of diagnostic errors may be even higher, as there may not be enough documentation to conclusively establish that a doctor failed to diagnose someone or diagnose them with the wrong condition. Millions of people in the United States every year do not get the treatment that they require because the doctor who diagnoses them makes a major mistake.
These people may end up undergoing far more painful and invasive treatment or reaching a point where they will no longer respond to treatment. Individual patients and grieving family members may potentially have the right to initiate a medical malpractice lawsuit after uncovering evidence of a significant diagnostic error.
If another, similarly-situated physician could have reached a better conclusion with the same information and resources, then the doctor’s diagnostic failure might constitute actionable malpractice. Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit against a doctor or medical facility, when appropriate, can help an affected patient defray the losses inspired by that significant medical error.