Medical mistakes kill more than 440,000 people in the U.S. each year. In fact, medical
mistakes are the third leading cause of death in the U.S., only falling
behind heart disease and cancer. While there are many different types
of medical mistakes, diagnostic errors are one of the most common. According
to a 2013 study published in the medical journal
BMJ Quality and Safety, an estimated 80,000 to 160,000 diagnostic errors made in the U.S. each
year result in
permanent injuries or
There are several ways doctors can make diagnostic errors. The following
examples are three common ways these mistakes occur:
Delayed diagnosis: A doctor may fail to make an accurate diagnosis until it is too late
to treat an illness. This could lead to delayed treatments and worse outcomes
for patients. For example, a patient with bacterial meningitis would need
an accurate diagnosis and treatment within hours to prevent permanent
brain damage, loss of limbs or wrongful death.
Incorrect diagnosis: In some cases, doctors may diagnose patients with the incorrect health
conditions. An example used by the
Washington Post described the story of a man whose throat
cancer was misdiagnosed as acid reflux. As a result of the error, cancer treatments were delayed
and he lost his voice box.
Missed diagnosis: Doctors may discharge patients while they are still suffering from medical
Why Do Diagnostic Errors Happen?
Diagnostic errors may happen for several reasons. Poor communication between
hospital staff, misinterpreting image testing results or mistakes made
during lab work are all reasons diagnostic errors may occur. In some cases,
these mistakes would not have happened if patients had received the proper
standard of care. Patients harmed by these errors or their family members
may be able to file medical malpractice lawsuits.
The Washington DC medical malpractice lawyers
at Regan Zambri Long, PLLC are dedicated to helping people who were harmed
by preventable medical errors.