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Failure to Diagnose Patients in CA Can Have Serious Effects

Casper, Meadows, Schwartz & Cook

Incidents involving medical misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose a condition occur at an alarming rate across the U.S. and may lead to serious harm.

Every day, thousands of Americans visit their doctors in an attempt to discover what is causing a sickness, disease, or condition. People rely on medical professionals to provide an accurate diagnosis and possibly formulate a plan to help them get better. Although these patients may leave their physicians' offices with a diagnosis, research shows that it may not be the right one. Medical malpractice, including misdiagnosis of medical conditions, is a growing concern in California and the U.S.

According to a study published in BMJ Quality and Safety, more than 12 million Americans are affected by doctor misdiagnoses in outpatient settings each year. This number does not include wrong diagnoses that are given in hospitals and emergency rooms. It also doesn't contain the countless number of diagnostic mistakes that go unreported. When doctors fail to diagnose their patients or provide the wrong diagnosis, they place their patients in danger. In fact, the study reported that at least half of the patients who are misdiagnosed each year are at risk of serious harm.

How do misdiagnoses occur?

After years of training, testing and applied experience, it may be hard to believe that a medical professional could make a mistake. There are, however, several factors that can result in a doctor making a wrong diagnosis. An article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that mistakes can happen when doctors:

  • Order the wrong screening tests or evaluate the tests incorrectly
  • Fail to follow up on patient test results
  • Do not spend enough time with each patient and cannot grasp the full gravity of what is going on with the patient's condition
  • Do not know how to properly diagnose a patient because they are not qualified to see patients

Patients who do not give their doctors a complete medical history, as well as doctors who do not thoroughly investigate a patient's medical history, may also contribute to a diagnostic mistake.

The scope of the problem

While the patient is being treated for the wrong condition or is not being treated at all, the actual illness may worsen. For example, if a patient's screening test came back showing a cloudy presence in the lungs, he or she may be misdiagnosed with pneumonia rather than cancer. While the patient is receiving antibiotic treatment for the pneumonia, the lung cancer may continue to grow and spread throughout the body.

In addition, a patient may be receiving medication for the misdiagnosed condition. This medication may cause undesirable and even debilitating side effects that may affect a person's quality of life.

If you are the victim of medical malpractice, you may want to consult with a personal injury attorney in California who understands these types of cases.