Misdiagnosis incidents far outnumber other types of malpractice

We have discussed several forms of medical malpractice in this blog. Doctors across the U.S. sometimes commit surgical errors, medication mistakes and so on. But misdiagnosis is the most common type of medical negligence and is reportedly as deadly a problem as breast cancer.

According to the journal BMJ Quality and Safety, misdiagnoses in intensive care units in the U.S. result in around 40,500 fatalities each year. That is the same number of people who die from breast cancer nationwide annually. The difference, of course, is that medical malpractice is frequently preventable through more vigilant care.

Misdiagnosis is not a rare medical event. A 2009 federal study estimates that up to 20 percent of medical exams are affected by a misdiagnosis, failure to diagnosis or delayed diagnosis. Some misdiagnoses cause only minimal harm, but frequently it allows a disease or injury to progress while the doctor either treats a non-existent problem or does nothing at all.

Despite the apparent magnitude of the problem, the medical community has not taken misdiagnosis as seriously as it should, critics believe. One problem is that doctors often do not know they misdiagnosed a patient because he or she finds a new doctor to get a proper diagnosis. Also, doctors tend to be reluctant to admit that they may have made a mistake and believe that such errors only can be committed by other doctors.

This lack of transparency and honesty about misdiagnosis may be hindering the development of solutions to the trend. Meanwhile, patients continue to be vulnerable.

Source: The Waterloo Record, “Misdiagnosis more common that drug errors or wrong-site surgery,” Sandra G. Boodman, June 6, 2013

Failure to Diagnose


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