Study: Medical malpractice claims frequently cite diagnosis errors

When patients learn that surgical sponges have been left inside their bodies after operations, or when patients suffer severe side effects from medication overdoses while being treated at Chicago nursing homes or hospitals, it may be obvious that they have suffered harm from medical professionals’ mistakes.

These types of medical mistakes should never happen, but recent studies have suggested that about 4,000 surgical “never events” happen every year, and thousands of medication errors are made each year. Although surgical errors and medication errors are common forms of medical malpractice, a new study suggests that diagnostic errors may actually happen more frequently than these types of mistakes. The new study, which was published in the journal BMJ Quality and Safety, also suggests that diagnostic errors may be more harmful to patients than other types of medical mistakes.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University conducted the study. Researchers collected and analyzed data from more than 350,700 medical malpractice claims. All of the claims had been paid. After analyzing the data, researchers discovered that nearly 30 percent of the claims had involved a diagnostic error.

A diagnostic error may include a misdiagnosis, a missed diagnosis or a delayed diagnosis. As we have mentioned before on our blog, these errors are very dangerous. When patients are ill or are suffering from a serious injury, proper medical treatment is necessary so they can recover or minimize the effects of their illnesses or injuries.

For the study, researchers also analyzed how diagnostic errors had affected patients. After comparing the effects of diagnostic errors to the effects of other types of medical mistakes that were cited in the paid medical malpractice claims, researchers concluded that diagnostic errors were more likely to result in disabilities or death.

Researchers estimate that about 80,000 to 160,000 patients in the U.S. are harmed by diagnostic errors every year based on the information researchers gathered while conducting the study. However, these errors may not always be as obvious as other types of medical mistakes. If you believe that you have suffered an injury or disability as a result of a diagnostic error, you may want to contact an attorney as soon as possible to learn more about whether your doctor made a serious mistake while treating you.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Diagnostic errors more common in medical malpractice claims than surgical, medication errors: study,” April 24, 2013