Misdiagnosis: Statistically, it will happen to you!

Written By Thomas Hall

In 2015 medical researchers at Johns Hopkins University analyzed all available data and reports concerning medical errors, and concluded that every year between 250,000 and 400,000 people die in the United States because of a medical error. That ranks “death by malpractice” as the 2nd or 3rd leading cause of death in the United States every year, behind only heart disease and cancer. Medical errors include misdiagnosis, misreading results, unnecessary surgery, improper dosage, surgical errors, and more.

But death is not the only adverse outcome related to malpractice. It is estimated that at least as many Americans suffer serious, often debilitating injury as a result of malpractice.

Medical researchers who have analyzed this plague of malpractice have found that errors by misdiagnosis, meaning incidents where the doctor either delays in reaching a correct diagnosis or simply reaches the wrong diagnosis, result in one out of three malpractice cases involving death or permanent disability.

Misdiagnosis Statistics

Now in a 2019 article appearing in the medical journal Diagnosis, additional data by researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine confirms that “estimates from national malpractice data, translating into roughly 80,000 – 160,000 serious misdiagnosis–related harms each year”.

The opportunity for missteps that results in a misdiagnosis are multiple: failing to obtain a complete patient history; failing to perform a complete physical examination, failing to order necessary tests, failing to rule out the most serious and time-sensitive possibilities before sending the patient home – just to name a few.

Likelihood of Misdiagnosis

According to a recent article published by the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, citing data published by the National Academy of Medicine, everyone is likely to experience at least one diagnostic error during his or her lifetime. If you or a loved one are lucky, the misdiagnosis that you experience will be harmless. There will be time to correct the misdiagnosis before permanent injury or death occurs. But victims of a misdiagnosed condition where the need for immediate treatment is of the essence will not be so lucky.

Those are the victims, or their surviving families, who seek justice through our civil courts. Their lawsuits represent for them not only an opportunity to receive justice but an opportunity to emphasize to the defendants that tragedies have and will continue to occur until steps are taken to eliminate medical errors. It is usually stated quite plain and simple – “we are not the kind who sue, but… we don’t want anyone else to suffer what we have been through.”

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