Misdiagnosis: an error more common and harmful than most assume

One of the most common and insidious mistakes that doctors make is misdiagnosis. Misdiagnosis can happen here in Philadelphia and across the rest of Pennsylvania. Particularly with regards to cancer, timely and accurate diagnosis is imperative for preserving the health and quality of life of a patient. If a cancer diagnosis is delayed or missed, a patient may need to undergo costly, painful and more invasive treatment when the cancer is left to continue growing or metastasize. Misdiagnosis does not occur with just rare forms of cancer or disease either.

An associate professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine that studies diagnostic errors says that the occurrence of misdiagnosis is not uncommon. The associate professor says, “This is an enormous problem, the hidden part of the iceberg of medical errors.” The associate professor further indicates that while glaringly egregious medical mistakes like operating on the wrong body part or making a medication error grab media headlines more often, the rate of misdiagnosis far eclipses the rates of many other medical mistakes.

Some experts estimate that the number of cases impacted by an incorrect, missed or delayed diagnosis could be as high as 1 in 5 cases. These errors often occur in a primary-care setting when doctors look for innovative new diagnostic tests that maintain a debated level of usefulness instead of simply evaluating the patient in front of them.

An additional problem is that doctors do not often pause to consider alternative diagnoses for a health issue. This can mean that information and discrepancies are overlooked as various doctors run in the same direction, leaving the real problem untreated. In the most serious cases of this, a victim in Pennsylvania can lose years of his or her life, and be made to live in preventable discomfort.

In some instances, a victim can hold medical professionals accountable for a misdiagnosis. In instances of negligence, medical professionals can be held financially liable for a victim’s medical expenses and lost wages, in addition to being held liable for financially compensating the victim for his or her pain and suffering associated with the misdiagnosis.

A skilled attorney that has experience handling claims of medical malpractice can help a victim in Pennsylvania find justice in the midst of such devastation.

Source: AARP Blog, “Doctors’ Errors: They Happen More Than You Think (And Can Hurt You),” Sandra G. Boodman, May 7, 2913

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