About 40,000 to 80,000 hospitalized patients are killed each year because of diagnostics mistakes (such as delayed diagnosis, wrong diagnosis, and misdiagnosis)-considered the number one cause of medical malpractice lawsuits. The Wall Street Journal recently reported on this issue, as well as the fact that doctors and other medical professionals are examining past medical malpractice cases to develop programs geared toward preventing similar medical errors from happening in the future. Our Boston medical malpractice law firm hopes that such analysis will indeed decrease the number of illnesses, injuries, and deaths caused by medical malpractice.
According to a study of malpractice claims, there is no one reason that diagnostic mistakes happen. Diagnostic mistakes occur most often with cancer cases. In the WSJ, breast cancer surgeon Susan Kutner reports that of the 320,000 abnormal mammograms and 420,000 abnormal biopsies identified by Kaiser Permanente in the last 15 years, 450 of the patients involved developing recurring or new cancer or abnormal biopsies. Kutner says these patients might not have been diagnosed if they hadn’t been brought in “proactively.”
In addition to medical mistakes made by the health providers resulting in diagnostic mistakes, patients can play a role in causing wrong diagnosis or misdiagnosis to happen. For example, a patient may wait too long before going to see a doctor, fail to follow medical directions, or decide not to show up to take a physician-ordered test.
According to Crico/RFM, 26% of the 1,137 medical malpractice cases between 2005 and 2009 involved diagnostic mistakes. 456 were “high severity” cases that caused patients serious injury, illness, or death. Almost half of these cases involved diagnosis mistakes.
Failing to diagnose or offering a wrong or delayed medical diagnosis to a patient in a timely manner can negatively affect his/her prognosis and course of treatment. It may even result in death. Wrong diagnosis, misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, and other diagnostic-related errors can be grounds for a Massachusetts medical malpractice case.
According to a 2007 article on CNN, the most commonly misdiagnosed illnesses include:
• Aortic dissection • Cancer • Heart attack • Clogged Arteries • Infection
What the Doctor Missed, The Wall Street Journal, September 27 2010
Five commonly misdiagnosed diseases, CNN, September 26, 2007
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