News headlines about medical malpractice often make people think about some of the more macabre circumstances. Surgical equipment left inside a patient, a procedure on the wrong body part, fast-spreading hospital infections.
Unfortunately, these scenarios do occasionally happen. But there’s a common cause of medical malpractice claims that is not talked about as much: misdiagnosis.
The prevalence of misdiagnosis
A report by the Insurance Journal summarizes some of the findings from a study published in July of 2019, which reviewed closed medical malpractice claims filed between 2006 and 2015. The researchers found misdiagnosis – such as a wrong or delayed diagnosis – was cited in just over one-third of the malpractice claims where the patient died or was disabled.
Of those claims specifically, that error resulted in death or permanent disability 65% of the time. When considering all of the misdiagnosis claims in the study, about three-quarters were attributed to either cancer, vascular events (strokes or heart attacks, for example) or infections.
The serious repercussions
A misdiagnosis can have devastating repercussions. It could lead to inadequate treatment, resulting in a treatable disease progressing further than necessary. A patient might end up undergoing unnecessary procedures or surgeries, causing further suffering. A misdiagnosis can also lead to serious injury, disability or even death.
In some cases, a medical malpractice lawsuit may be able to compensate a victim or their loved ones for what they’ve endured. These types of cases can be complex. An unfavorable medical outcome is not, by itself, enough. You must prove the doctor did not meet the medical standard of care, then demonstrate that the negligence harmed the patient.
When we seek medical help, we expect professional, expert-level care. If a doctor fails to live up to that standard – either during the course of treatment, or long before during the initial diagnosis – it can impact a patient, their family and other loved ones in terrible ways.