Many people think about a medical error when they consider malpractice claims. Operating on the wrong limb or leaving medical equipment inside someone after surgery are the situations that come to mind most often. The fact is that misdiagnosis is actually the most common reason for medical malpractice claims in Illinois and other states.
What is misdiagnosis?
Up to 80,000 people die from diagnostic failures in the United States every year according to the Society To Improve Diagnosis In Medicine. In addition, research indicates that one in three people has firsthand experience with a diagnostic mistake. A delayed diagnosis is when a doctor fails to make the correct diagnosis right away.
Cancer is the leading illness where a doctor’s delayed diagnosis could result in the disease progressing beyond the ability to cure it. A person who is told they are simply having an acid reflux attack when they are actually having a heart attack is another example of a wrong diagnosis with potentially fatal consequences. If your symptoms are brushed aside, which often happens with certain illnesses like chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia, you may also have a claim for a diagnostic error.
Liability issue for doctors
Diagnostic errors are not just dangerous to a patient as they can also create a significant liability issue for a health care professional. Research shows that in a study of closed medical malpractice cases, those whose claims included a diagnosis error had an average gross indemnity payment of almost $500,000.
Anchor bias in diagnosis
In some cases, the health care provider falls into what is known as anchor bias. In this situation, your symptoms may present for one illness, so the doctor reviews test results looking for confirmation of that one illness. In actuality, you may be suffering from something completely different. The doctor may see evidence in testing that there could be something else wrong, but the factors may not have been conclusive, leading them to continue with the belief you are suffering from something else. When it comes to filing a medical malpractice claim, it is important to demonstrate that the doctor should have known you were suffering from another illness and should not have discounted test results that could have led them in a different direction.
A missed or delayed diagnosis can have dire consequences. An attorney may help determine if your missed or delayed diagnosis qualifies for a medical malpractice claim.
Sources: What is A Diagnostic Error. (n.d.). Society To Improve Diagnosis In Medicine. Retrieved July 8, 2021, from https://www.improvediagnosis.org/what-is-diagnostic-error/
Frieden, J. (2021, May 26). Diagnostic Mistakes a Big Contributor to Malpractice Suits, Study Finds. MedPage Today. https://www.medpagetoday.com/publichealthpolicy/practicemanagement/92794