A recent study found that the most common payments on claims against doctors in malpractice lawsuits are made in connection with the the doctor making errors when diagnosing a patient. Close to 30 percent of payments made to patients in connection with medical malpractice claims were related to misdiagnosis. This may seem surprising, and while treatment and surgery claims were also very common, misdiagnoses were the most common. These three types of claims (misdiagnosis, treatment and surgery) together account for around 80 percent of all the medical malpractice payments. The other 20 percent of claims were comprised of a combination of errors including obstetric, medication, monitoring and anesthesia issues.
This makes sense when you look at how severe a problem may result with a missed or incorrect diagnosis. Patients may either be told nothing is wrong while the missed problem continues to get worse, or may be treated for a problem that is different from what they are actually suffering from. Personal injury or wrongful death claims may often arise when someone suffered much more, or even died, from complications of not being properly diagnosed and treated, especially if they had been to the doctor on multiple occasions and their problem was not figured out.
Part of the reason that the claims may be so high in this specific area is that many problems with patients that end up turning fatal may have been preventable or at least treatable if caught early on when the patient initially went to see the doctor. Because of this, the doctor is likely to be seen as more responsible for the severity of the patient’s problems that he might be in other medical situations, because it is believed that the doctor “should” have caught and properly treated the issue.
It is crucial for medical professionals to do all necessary tests and look at all the signs when determining what is wrong with a patient so they are able to properly treat the patient in a way that will be best for that particular problem as well as best for that particular patient. Additionally, if a doctor or other medical professional is unsure of what could be wrong with the patient or unsure of the appropriate course of action, the medical professional should either seek another opinion or tell the patient they should see a specialist to try to pinpoint the exact problem. It is always best to be safe and check out all the possible issues when diagnosing a patient, in order to insure that the patient is properly treated.
According to the New York Times blog, the senior author of this published study feels that the issue of medical misdiagnosing is a problem that no institute views as their problem on a policy level. This is disturbing to hear because if no one is willing to be held accountable for this problem, it will be more difficult to fix. Without an incentive to fix this problem, it will continue to be a major issue and many people may continue to unnecessarily suffer from preventable or treatable issues.