When you sit down with your doctor to talk about your symptoms, you trust that they will listen to you and apply their knowledge to your situation. You need them to tell you whether this rash is an allergic reaction, a sign of an infectious disease or an early warning sign of cancer.
Unfortunately, doctors make mistakes just like other people do. When those mistakes occur during the diagnostic process, the patients in their care might receive the wrong treatment or go without necessary treatment for so long that it endangers their health. However much trust you may have in your doctor, it’s important to understand that diagnostic mistakes are a common form of medical malpractice if you question whether they reach the right conclusion during your recent visit.
Thousands of people die every year from diagnostic errors
It is difficult truly know the scope of medical malpractice and diagnostic mistakes in the United States. The very individuals responsible for people dying are the ones that must report such incidents and create records that show what happened. Corruption and incompetence aside, patients may not see the same doctor multiple times, meaning that they may die without anyone ever realizing the mistakes that occurred.
What researchers know is a reflection of autopsy results and of patients pushing for second opinions and eventually reaching the right diagnosis. Researchers estimate hundreds of thousands of diagnostic errors every year that results in between 80,000 and 160,000 annual deaths. Diagnostic mistakes that involve serious issues like strokes and cancer can have fatal consequences for the patient involved.
How do you address a diagnostic mistake?
If you are a patient who suspects a diagnostic error, getting your medical records from your doctor is a good first step. Then, you need to talk to an unaffiliated doctor for a second opinion.
If you are the family member of someone who died after seeking medical care, medical records and professional consultations will also play a role in analyzing your circumstances. There will likely be malpractice insurance available, and you may be able to take the facility or doctor involved to court.
Recognizing when you have the right to take legal action can help you get justice when medical malpractice related to diagnosis harms someone’s health.