You can’t receive any medical care or prescription drugs unless your doctor decides that you need them. The very first service a physician must provide a patient is diagnostic help. One symptom could be the result of many different medical conditions. It is a doctor’s responsibility to review a patient’s medical history, perform tests and figure out what causes their specific symptoms.
Unfortunately, when doctors don’t pay attention to patients, when they make assumptions instead of ruling out specific causes and when they rush through their job, they can make major mistakes in the attempt to diagnose someone.
Diagnostic errors include misdiagnosis, which is providing someone with an inaccurate diagnosis. They also include failed diagnosis, which is when a doctor doesn’t diagnose a patient with anything even though there is a clear issue.
Are diagnostic mistakes a common issue in modern medicine?
With advanced imaging technology that can look at your bones or your brain and a host of tests that can spot everything from amoebas to cancer, you might assume that modern doctors rarely make mistakes when diagnosing patients.
Far from being something that never happens, misdiagnosis is one of the most prevalent forms of medical mistakes. Researchers estimate that 12 million Americans face medical consequences from a diagnostic error every year. Between 40,000 and 80,000 of those people will die due to a failed or inaccurate diagnosis.
Women are at higher risk for this issue than men, often because their signs of serious issues, like heart attacks, are different from those presented by men.
How a diagnostic error can hurt a patient
Obviously, if a doctor doesn’t diagnose you with the right condition, they can’t treat you for the underlying causes. They can only try to manage or control the symptoms you present.
Left untreated, the actual medical condition could progress to a point where it becomes life-threatening, as is the case with cancer diagnostic mistakes. There is also the potential for a doctor to prescribe treatment when they reach the wrong diagnosis that could have negative medical consequences for the patient.
If you believe that your doctor didn’t listen to you or made a major diagnostic error, looking over your medical records can be a first step in evaluating whether you have a viable medical malpractice claim.