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Most paid medical malpractice claims are due to diagnostic errors

Some Oregon residents may be familiar with the frustrations of being ill but not knowing why. Patients turn to doctors to find the causes of their symptoms and help them regain their health, but diagnosing a source is sometimes easier said than done. In some cases, patients are incorrectly diagnosed, which can cause further deterioration of their health and delay treatments that could save their lives or, at minimum, prevent any further damage. One study shows that most medical malpractice claims that are paid are due to a failure to correctly diagnose a patients' conditions, sometimes with serious or fatal consequences.

A misdiagnosis can occur for a variety of reasons, such as not having all of a patient's medical records and/or history, rushed visits or poor communication with the patient. Other times, a doctor will become focused on one cause and fail to consider other possible conditions that could cause the same symptoms. For instance, a patient in California was dangerously anemic and diagnosed with a stomach ulcer. It was later determined that she actually had kidney cancer. She was fortunate that treatment worked even though there was a delay in the correct diagnosis.

Other patients are not so lucky. Nearly every Oregon resident has heard about the man in Texas who was sent home with antibiotics for sinusitis only to return to the hospital a couple of days later. At that time, he was diagnosed with Ebola and ultimately died from it. Another woman went to the emergency room with symptoms of a heart attack, was told it was only acid reflux and was chastised for questioning the doctor's diagnosis. She ended up with serious, permanent damage to her heart.

These are just some of the instances in which serious diagnostic errors were made. Oregon residents who believe that their conditions -- or the condition of a family member who ultimately died -- was misdiagnosed, which caused serious health issues or death, retain the right to file medical malpractice claims against the parties deemed responsible. Not only could a successfully litigated claim of negligence provide a patient with a monetary judgment, but it could also help prevent the same mistake being made again.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Mistaken Diagnoses Are Much More Common Than You'd Think", Lauran Neergaard, Sept. 23, 2015

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