An important study reported in the March 2013 Journal of the American Medical Association found that misdiagnosis is more common than you might think. According to this study, almost 40 percent of patients who unexpectedly returned to their primary care doctor after the initial visit had been misdiagnosed.
How does misdiagnosis happen?
What are the different types of misdiagnosis?
Worried you might be misdiagnosed? What are the next steps?
What damages are awarded in medical misdiagnosis lawsuits?
How can our malpractice attorneys help you?
Even though modern medicine is rapidly advancing and the newest technologies sometimes seem to be right out of science fiction, a doctor’s misdiagnosis can cause a patient to be deprived of the best available care and, in the worst cases, can actually deprive someone of their life. According to The American Journal of Medicine, 15 percent of all medical cases in developed countries are misdiagnosed. Millions of patients worldwide are being treated for the wrong conditions every year. A Mayo Clinic study found that 26 percent of cases were misdiagnosed while, according to The Journal of Clinical Oncology, up to a startling 44 percent of some types of cancer are misdiagnosed.
The numbers are concerning; but at McNeely Stephenson, our biggest concern is your personal welfare. You’re not a number, you’re our valued client and friend. As experienced and empathetic Indiana malpractice attorneys, we pledge to be faithful to our duty when others have breached theirs. If you need help after a medical misdiagnosis, contact Mike Stephenson at 855-206-2555 or use our online contact form.
We’ve helped others . . . we can help you, too.
The Indiana personal injury attorneys of McNeely Stephenson have been successfully litigating claims on behalf of injured parties since 1982, including the two medical malpractice cases detailed below.
- Attorney Mike Stephenson secured an $8.5 million jury verdict for a client whose surgeon failed to timely identify a small bowel obstruction. Read more here.
- A four-year-old boy died when the hospital and doctors did not conduct tests or otherwise adequately address the complications he developed after a routine tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy. Thirty days prior to trial, a confidential settlement was reached. More details here.
How does medical misdiagnosis happen?
Doctors are well educated. They’re highly trained, many times with an area of specialty. Their education and experience should enable them to listen to your complaint, utilize the wonderful array of tests and technologies available to them, and make an accurate diagnosis of your condition. At least that’s what we expect and hope for when we see our physician.
- A condition may be improperly diagnosed because the symptoms are similar to those of another disorder.
The medical professional may be distracted or inattentive, missing important information.
- There may be a shortage of staff.
- A doctor may fail to properly assess the patient’s medical history, including drug records.
- Lab tests or medical equipment may malfunction.
- Patient records could get mixed up.
- A doctor may be too hasty. The average amount of time a physician spends with a patient is 15 minutes. Doctors in training in a hospital setting spend 8 face-to-face minutes with patients, according to a study reported in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
- Test results may be incorrectly interpreted.
Misdiagnosis can lead to a delay in the condition’s being properly treated, and this may lead to serious consequences and even death.
Categories of Diagnostic Mistakes
Physicians and other medical professionals can make diagnostic mistakes which fall into several categories:
- Wrong diagnosis, such as mistaking a heart attack for a gastrointestinal ailment.
- Missed diagnosis, when the doctor fails to detect an illness or disease.
- Delayed diagnosis, when a correct diagnosis is made, but after significant delay. Late diagnosis is one of the more common types of diagnosis error.
- Failure to recognize complications, when a correct diagnosis is made but the doctor fails to identify complications or factors which change or aggravate the illness or condition.
- Failure to diagnose a disease that occurs secondary to the primary condition.
Missed and delayed cancer diagnosis is a leading type of diagnostic error. Pulmonary embolism, drug reactions, acute coronary syndrome and stroke are also among the most frequent serious consequences of misdiagnosis.
As you might expect, the incidence of misdiagnosis is much higher in emergency rooms, where there are increased time pressures and reduced investigational interviews. Because of the severe nature of many emergency room illnesses and injuries, missed or incorrect diagnoses are more likely to result in harm to the patient. Appendicitis is the most common condition requiring emergency surgery in children; and yet, appendicitis is misdiagnosed in 28% to 57% of children under the age of 12 and in close to 100% of infants, according to Healthgrades, Inc.
What is the next step?
In some cases, the victims of missed or mistaken diagnoses may be able to seek compensation through a malpractice lawsuit. The law does not hold doctors legally liable for all diagnostic errors; patients usually must prove three things in order to prevail in a medical malpractice lawsuit based on a wrong diagnosis: (1) that a doctor-patient relationship existed; (2) that the doctor was negligent; and (3) that the negligence caused actual injury to the patient.
To be found negligent, a doctor or other medical professional must have deviated from the accepted standard of care. Not every instance of misdiagnosis results from incompetence or negligence. The key is to evaluate what the doctor did and did not do and determine whether another doctor in a similar specialty, under similar circumstances, would have arrived at the same diagnosis.
Damages available through a medical misdiagnosis lawsuit
Our Indiana malpractice attorneys have represented numerous individuals and families who have been harmed by negligence in the form of a mistaken or missed diagnosis.
A 2013 analysis of 25 years of U.S. malpractice claims reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank found diagnostic errors to be the most common, most costly and most dangerous of medical mistakes. Diagnostic errors were the leading type (28.6%) and accounted for the highest proportion of total payments (35.2%).
- compensation for physical and mental pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and loss of consortium
- payment of hospital bills, drugs, physical therapy and other medical expenses
- reimbursement of lost income due to time off work.
In situations where a doctor diagnoses a patient with a condition or illness that the patient does not have, the patient may also be able to prove harm in the form of anxiety, stress, medical problems, and expenses due to unnecessary treatment.