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What happens when a doctor makes a diagnostic mistake?

On Behalf of | Dec 5, 2022 | Personal Injury |

The basic symptoms for many medical conditions are quite similar. The common cold and lung cancer may have numerous overlapping symptoms. Someone slowly developing an autoimmune condition could easily ignore their symptoms because they are often mild at first.

Individuals with serious or chronic health concerns rely on the medical professionals that see them annually for routine physical checkups or during times of medical need to identify the warning signs of serious medical issues and properly diagnose them.

Unfortunately, misdiagnosis where a doctor reaches the wrong conclusion about the source of someone’s symptoms is very common. Failed diagnosis or the inability of a doctor to diagnose someone at all is also more common than many people realize.

How often do diagnostic mistakes happen?

Experts estimate that 12 million diagnostic errors occur in the United States every year, resulting in anywhere from 40,000 to 80,000 deaths annually. Many other patients who experience a diagnostic mistake will have to undergo more aggressive medical care because of a delayed diagnosis. Thousands of others may undergo treatment they didn’t require at all because of a doctor’s failures.

Such mistakes can lead to thousands of dollars in medical expenses and lost wages for the patient involved. The risk of overlooking a serious or progressive condition is one reason why best practices mandate that doctors should rule out all alternative explanations for symptoms before reaching a diagnosis.

What protects patients affected by diagnostic mistakes?

If your doctor made a major mistake in the diagnostic process or if diagnostic errors affected your family, possibly by harming someone you love, then your family may have grounds for a medical malpractice claim. Both those who discover a diagnostic error when seeking treatment and those who uncover a diagnostic error when seeking treatment and those who learn about a failed diagnosis because of an autopsy on a loved one may have rights.

Malpractice insurance could offer compensation, and sometimes families can even bring a civil lawsuit against an individual healthcare provider or medical facility where an error occurred. Pursuing a medical malpractice claim can provide financial support for those harmed in a medical setting and create accountability for the professionals whose mistakes impact the lives of others.