If you are like most people, you put considerable faith in your doctor or medical team. When you develop worrisome symptoms, you trust that your provider will, if not accurately diagnose the condition him or herself then, at the very least, refer you to a professional who can. When your doctor or a specialist diagnoses you, you trust that it is accurate. The alternative is an inaccurate diagnosis, which can have devastating long-term consequences on your health, quality of life and possibly lifespan.
Unfortunately, inaccurate diagnoses — otherwise known as misdiagnoses — are all too common in the United States and across the world. In fact, diagnostic errors affect roughly 12 million Americans each year. To put this figure into perspective, one in 20 adults who seek a diagnosis each year will receive an inaccurate or false finding. Of those who are affected by a misdiagnosis, between 40,000 and 80,000 will lose their lives because of it.
As you can see, misdiagnosis is a prevalent issue that can have catastrophic consequences. If you are all too familiar with the effects of a diagnostic error, you may feel angry, frustrated and alone. Know that you are not alone, and that you can seek restitution for the wrongs you endured. An experienced misdiagnosis lawyer in Utah can assess your situation, determine if you have a case and, if you do, help you take the steps necessary to obtain justice for yourself or a loved one.
Types of Medical Misdiagnosis
Misdiagnosis is a form of medical malpractice. However, it is also an umbrella term for a variety of actions, inactions and circumstances. As a patient, it is important to familiarize yourself with the many forms misdiagnosis can take, that way you can better protect yourself should a diagnostic error adversely affect your life.
A false negative occurs when a medical professional fails to identify or diagnose a specific medical condition. This failure causes the professional to give an otherwise sick patient a clean bill of health, which ultimately causes the patient to go without necessary medications or treatment. When certain conditions remain untreated, they can become worse or trigger other medical conditions, outcomes that may prove catastrophic for the patient.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are false positives. A false positive occurs when a provider diagnoses an individual with a health condition that he or she does not actually have. This may result in the patient receiving unnecessary treatment, which may trigger the development of a different medical condition or have other adverse outcomes.
False positives may also occur when a doctor misidentifies a patient’s condition. When this occurs, the patient may receive medical care for a condition he or she does not have while simultaneously foregoing the treatment he or she needs.
Delayed diagnoses are the most common type of diagnostic errors and one of the leading causes of medical malpractice claims. Delayed diagnosis occurs when a doctor identifies a medical condition, but only after it is too late to administer effective treatment or take preventative measures. Delayed diagnosis claims arise when the medical professional had ample opportunity to make an early and accurate diagnosis but failed to regardless.
Failure To Diagnose the Root Cause
In many cases, doctors will diagnose symptoms but not root causes. When this occurs, they and their medical teams will attempt to treat the symptoms while ignoring the underlying causes. If the root cause of an issue remains untreated, it can grow worse and put the patient at a greater risk of becoming sicker or, in the worst-case scenario, succumbing to an otherwise treatable disease.
Failure To Diagnose Related or Unrelated Conditions
It is not uncommon for diseases or conditions to go hand-in-hand. Despite this, medical professionals tend to stop diagnosing patients once they make an initial determination. This practice causes both related and unrelated medical conditions to go undiagnosed and, therefore, untreated, two outcomes that put patients at risk for adverse health outcomes.
Failure To Identify Complications
Many times, it is not a condition that puts patients at risk of adverse health outcomes but rather, complications of a condition. When a doctor diagnoses a patient, he or she must consider any and all possible complications and account for them during the treatment process. If a patient does develop a complication, the medical team should be ready to adjust the course of treatment as necessary.
Why Misdiagnosis Occurs
Misdiagnosis can occur for several reasons, ranging from lack of care to oversight to insufficient knowledge or experience. Though not an exhaustive list, below are a few top reasons that misdiagnoses occur:
- Misinterpretation of Results: Doctors often rely on imaging, lab results or results from examinations to make their diagnoses. When, whether due to inexperience or carelessness, a doctor misinterprets results, a misdiagnosis can occur.
- Lack of Communication: Patients play a key role in their medical care and health outcomes. The best doctors know this, and they encourage open and honest communication between themselves, their team members and their patients. If a patient cannot comfortably communicate with a medical team, or if a medical team writes off what a patient has to say, the doctor may end up with insufficient information to make an accurate diagnosis.
- Inexperience: Inexperience lies at the heart of many misdiagnosis claims. No medical professional has the knowledge or experience to accurately diagnose every medical condition possible. Unfortunately, many are too proud to admit when they do not know something so, instead of seeking help or making a referral, they issue an inaccurate diagnosis.
- Outdated Practices: Outdated practices and procedures are another common cause of misdiagnoses.
In each of these instances, and in other cases of wrongful diagnosis, patients can hold their doctors and medical teams legally accountable for any harm they endure because of a misdiagnosis.
Commonly Misdiagnosed Conditions
Providers misdiagnosis some conditions more frequently than they do others. A few of the topmost commonly misdiagnosed medical conditions are as follows:
- Heart attacks
- Cancers, especially breast and prostate cancers
- Pulmonary embolisms
These are just a few of the conditions that doctors frequently misdiagnosis. Unfortunately, without treatment, many of these conditions can evolve to the point where they prove fatal.
Consequences of a Medical Misdiagnosis
The consequences of a medical diagnostic error range in severity and depend largely on a patient’s current health status and unique circumstances. However, a wrongful diagnosis often leads to worsened medical conditions, deteriorated health and eventual death. For instance, a patient who lives with undiagnosed breast cancer may go without life-saving treatment and medications. A patient who receives a false positive for a condition he or she does not have may undergo aggressive and dangerous treatment for no reason. When a doctor diagnoses the symptoms but not the root cause, a patient may never receive the care he or she needs to achieve a full recovery.
Medical misdiagnosis is a serious issue and one that should not go unaddressed. If you or a loved one is the victim of a misdiagnosis, consult with a misdiagnosis lawyer right away.
Your Path To Recovery Begins With a Free Initial Consultation
A misdiagnosis can have catastrophic and life-altering consequences. If you know this better than most, know that the law does entitle you to compensation for the wrongs you have endured. To explore your legal options and achieve justice for yourself or a loved one, schedule a free initial consultation with the misdiagnosis lawyers at Siegfried & Jensen today.