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Medical misdiagnoses exceedingly common

When people in Cuyahoga County are not feeling their best, they often seek medical care and this requires a level of trust in their doctor. However, doctors are human and mistakes happen. Unfortunately, it is often the patient who pays the ultimate price.

Misdiagnosis leads to death

Earlier this year, a woman in New York City died. She was the victim of multiple medical errors and a delayed cancer diagnosis that spanned a two-year period according to the New York Daily News. The woman’s story began in February 2010 when she experienced chest pain and went to an emergency room at a local hospital. She was told that she had an asthma condition and was sent home. During that visit she had been given an x-ray.

Over the next two years, the woman was seen by doctors who never checked up on that x-ray. In 2012, she ended back in the same hospital and the x-ray was finally examined. It was then that she was told by a doctor that she did not have an asthma problem – she had lung cancer. Allowed to spread over the past couple of years, the cancer was in its final stages and she had only six months left to live. If the x-ray had been followed up on in 2010, the woman’s cancer could have easily been removed through surgery, preventing her early death.

Nothing new

Kaiser Health News states that misdiagnoses are much more common than the average person believes. Even more surprisingly is that one study in 1991 revealed that 14 percent of all adverse events occurred because of a diagnosis error and the majority of those errors were the result of doctors who did not go back and look at tests which had been ordered.

One of the problems is that doctors often do not find out that they made a diagnostic error and there is a suspected problem of a blame culture where it is always another medical professional who committed the error. Adding to the problem is the fact that many of these errors are never reported so it’s difficult to determine how prevalent the issue is.

The facts

The National Center for Policy Analysis also addressed the issue of misdiagnosis. Their facts include the following:

  • 40,500 diagnostic errors that are fatal occur in intensive care units within American hospitals every year.
  • Diagnosis errors are more common than errors involving medication and surgery mistakes, affecting 10-20 percent of all medical cases.
  • A 2009 study involving 538 diagnostic errors showed that 28 percent of those errors were fatal, caused permanent disability or threatened the life of the patient.
  • Many patients fail to take legal action, making it difficult to estimate how many people are victims.
  • Doctors are often reluctant to report errors.

When patients are the victims of these kinds of medical errors, it can affect them and their family in a number of ways. Doctors and medical facilities should be held accountable for their errors and people should talk to an experienced attorney to discuss their legal options.

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