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Are Diagnostic Errors the Most Common Type of Medical Mistake?

Posted By Regan Zambri Long, PLLC || 9-Aug-2017

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 wrongful death.

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 conditions.

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.

Categories: Medical Malpractice
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