Many medical malpractice lawsuits stem from the misdiagnosis of a medical condition, illness, or injury. When a doctor misdiagnoses a condition, the likelihood of administering the correct treatment diminishes significantly.

If a misdiagnosis results in incorrect, delayed, or no treatment, a patient’s condition can worsen, sometimes leading to death.

Two Decades of Diagnostic Errors

A 2013 study by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine revealed that medical misdiagnoses accounted for the majority of medical malpractice payouts. The study analyzed 350,000 malpractice settlements reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) between 1986 and 2010. Diagnostic errors were responsible for approximately 35 percent of the $38.8 billion in total payments.

Deadly and Disabling Errors

According to Johns Hopkins, misdiagnosis claims were more likely to involve death and disability compared to other types of malpractice. Most diagnostic errors occurred in outpatient settings, but those occurring in hospitals were more likely to be fatal. The researchers estimated that up to 160,000 preventable, permanent damage or death cases may arise each year due to misdiagnosis-related claims.

Types of Misdiagnoses

There are several types of diagnostic errors, including:

  • Wrong diagnosis
  • Missed diagnosis
  • Delayed diagnosis of primary or secondary conditions

These errors typically result from:

  • Poor technique
  • Failure to recognize symptoms
  • Lack of knowledge
  • Failure to order tests
  • Misreading radiologic images
  • Mix-ups with test results
  • Not notifying patients of test results
  • Administering incorrect treatment

Proving Medical Malpractice Based on Diagnostic Errors

To win a medical malpractice lawsuit based on misdiagnosis, patients must typically prove three things:

  1. A doctor-patient relationship existed.
  2. The doctor was negligent.
  3. The doctor’s negligence caused actual injury to the patient.

Errors in Diagnostic Tests

Sometimes, doctors fail to diagnose correctly due to inaccurate laboratory tests or radiology films. Faulty diagnostic equipment or oversights by lab technicians or specialists can lead to such errors. While the doctor may not be negligent, the lab technician or x-ray specialist might be. Patients must prove that the error was due to negligence.

Patient’s Role in Minimizing Misdiagnosis

Patients can help reduce diagnostic errors by:

  • Providing an accurate medical history
  • Adhering to prescribed follow-up plans
  • Keeping return appointments to discuss abnormal test results
  • Asking questions to clarify unclear instructions

Open communication between patient and physician is crucial in preventing misdiagnosis.

If you or someone you know has been harmed by a medical misdiagnosis, please contact our office to discuss your case confidentially.

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