Medical malpractice cases come in many forms
Failure to diagnose a serious or potentially deadly disease is a common patient complaint. In fact, one-third of all medical malpractice cases in the U.S. that result in death or permanent injury come from misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis.
According to a 2019 study conducted by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and appearing in Diagnosis, inaccurate diagnoses are the No. 1 cause of serious medical errors. They identified three major disease categories — cancer (37.8%), vascular events (22.8%), and infection (13.5%) — that account for nearly three-fourths of all serious harms from diagnostic errors.
Within “The Big Three,” the top five diseases under each category accounted for nearly half of all high-severity misdiagnosis-related cases.
Top Misdiagnosed Diseases
The top misdiagnosed vascular disease was stroke, the top misdiagnosed infection was sepsis, and the top misdiagnosed cancer was lung cancer.
The other top misdiagnosed diseases include:
- heart attack,
- venous thromboembolism (blood clots in the legs and lungs),
- aortic aneurysm and dissection (a rupture of the aorta),
- arterial thromboembolism (a blockage of the blood supply to internal organs),
- meningitis and encephalitis,
- spinal infection,
- endocarditis (a heart infection) and,
- breast, colorectal, prostate and skin cancers.
Importantly, the study noted that nearly 75% of diagnostic errors occurred in ambulatory settings (e.g., outpatient clinics or emergency departments).
They estimate 40,000 to 80,000 deaths occur each year in U.S. hospitals related to misdiagnosis, and another 12 million Americans suffer a diagnostic error in a primary care setting—one-third of which result in serious or permanent damage or death. The financial toll to the health care system and payouts in liability claims are in the multiple billions of dollars.
Diagnostic Errors Made by Healthcare Providers
To reduce serious harms from misdiagnoses, health care providers need to improve diagnostic accuracy and timeliness, especially with stroke, sepsis, and lung cancer. It is not a matter of training or experience — even highly experienced and competent health care providers make diagnostic errors.
Importantly, not all failure to diagnose, or misdiagnosis, cases are the result of negligence. Therefore, not all diagnostic errors are actionable. Sometimes the health care providers “get a pass” for their mistakes, based on the opinions of experts who evaluate their care. To be actionable, you must prove:
- The health care provider failed to exercise that degree of care, skill and learning expected of a reasonable, prudent health care provider in the profession or class to which he belongs within the state acting in the same or similar circumstances.
- Such failure was a proximate cause of the injury.
Simply put, you must prove the health care provider was negligent and their negligence caused serious injury, a decrease in chances for survival, or death. That is the essence of medical malpractice lawsuits in the U.S.
Experienced Misdiagnosis Lawyers Are Here To Help
Understanding when a diagnostic error can lead to liability takes an experienced misdiagnosis lawyer. If you have any questions about whether a failure to diagnose or a misdiagnosis constitutes medical malpractice, you should call Gage Mathers.