Diagnosing Errors Involving Children May Be Reason Enough for a Medical Malpractice Claim

Sick boy in hospital bedDiagnosing errors continue to be a problem in this nation. They are even a huge concern in pediatric wards. Such medical negligence has caused kids harm and has even led to adverse events, hospital admission, surgery, and even the loss of innocent lives. The truth is that pediatric diagnosing errors occur far more often than they should. Even one case involving a diagnosis error is one too many, because a precious child ends up suffering the consequences of a medical professional’s mistake.

How Often Do Pediatric Diagnosing Errors Happen?

A 2010 survey—for which pediatricians voluntarily contributed information anonymously—found that 54 percent of participating pediatricians admitted to making one or two diagnosing errors in a month, and nearly half of the respondents said their error in diagnosing patients actually caused patients harm at least once or twice a year.

Sadly, it is likely that pediatric diagnosis errors occur much more often than the survey indicates. There is no requirement that diagnosis errors be compiled, so the scanty data available comes from self-reporting in surveys like this one. While there is not much known about pediatric diagnosing errors, errors in diagnosis are the most commonly reported claim (32%) in pediatric malpractice lawsuits, according to the survey.

Why Do Pediatric Diagnosing Errors Occur?

There are several parties involved in a child’s medical care, including nurses, a physician, and sometimes lab technicians, pharmacists, and other medical professionals. All of these people need to do their job correctly and be thorough in their evaluations and communication with each other in order to prevent diagnosing errors. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case and breakdowns occur that can lead to diagnosing errors.

In addition, the survey suggests several reasons why a child may be a victim of a diagnosing error. The most common factors reported by pediatricians include:

  • Failure to gather a patient’s medical history.
  • Failure to conduct a physical examination.
  • Failure to perform a chart review.
  • Failure to provide adequate medical care due to poor coordination and teamwork.

Unfortunately, any of these breakdowns in processes, procedures, or care can lead to one of the several types of diagnosing errors.

Types of Pediatric Diagnosing Errors

Diagnosing errors involving children include:

  • Failure to diagnose. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, doctors sometimes fail to diagnose health conditions because a patient’s lab or test results are unreported, unread, or lost. When conditions aren’t correctly diagnosed, children end up suffering serious health consequences.
     
  • Misdiagnosis. Although many diseases have overlapping symptoms which can present a challenge, doctors are highly trained and should do everything they can to make the correct diagnosis—not just guess. But often doctors do make their best guess and fail to conduct tests, which can lead to a misdiagnosis.
     
  • Delay in diagnosis. Sometimes doctors fail to order tests at the first signs of symptoms and they delay making a diagnosis, which in turn delays a patient’s treatment. When treatment is delayed, patients can suffer serious harm.

The Effects of Pediatric Diagnosing Errors

The survey points out that the most commonly reported pediatric diagnostic error is when viral illnesses are diagnosed as bacterial illness. Other diagnostic mistakes involving children included misdiagnosing medication side-effects, psychiatric disorders, and appendicitis.

Although some diagnostic errors don’t end up causing a child harm, there are many instances in which a mistake involving a diagnosis can actually cause a child to suffer further injuries and even death. Take appendicitis, for example. If a doctor misdiagnoses appendicitis, the delay in treating the patient could actually cause a child to suffer infections, complications, and even death.

When innocent children are victims of diagnosis errors, negligent medical professionals need to be held accountable for their wrongful actions. If your child has been harmed as a result of a diagnosing error or any other type of pediatric medical negligence, you may have a medical malpractice claim.