In 2007, an Illinois man made an appointment with a neuropathologist. According to the NewsTribune, the doctor told the man that the mass in his brain was benign. Two years later, the man saw another physician, who determined that the mass was actually metastatic cancer, but it was too late for effective treatment. The man died in 2014, but not before filing a lawsuit against the initial doctor. After the man passed away, a jury awarded his family $1.7 million. They ruled that the misdiagnosis likely caused the premature death.
As many medical malpractice lawyers in Chicago know, diagnostic errors are the leading cause of medical malpractice claims. It is important for patients to recognize the possibility of a mistake and take steps to protect themselves.
How often it happens
A 2013 study from Johns Hopkins Medicine found that diagnostic error lawsuits are the most common and account for the highest payouts. A diagnostic error can include any of the following:
- A physician completely missing an illness or injury
- A physician misdiagnosing the condition as something else
- A physician failing to make a diagnosis in a timely fashion
Researchers at Johns Hopkins found that each year, as many as 160,000 people suffer a potentially preventable diagnostic error that leads to either permanent injury or death. As medical malpractice lawyers in Chicago would recognize, something must be done to remedy the situation.
Preventing the problem
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which is a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has launched an effort to reduce the number of misdiagnosed patients. Part of the problem, the agency reports, is that physicians often do not know they have committed an error. Therefore, regular feedback and nonbiased diagnoses may help.
While medical professionals are responsible for doing their jobs correctly, there are a number of items patients can do to avoid a misdiagnosis. Writing down every symptom and providing specialists with a complete medical history can give physicians a comprehensive picture of the problem.
Getting a second opinion is of the utmost importance, especially on matters concerning potentially life threatening conditions. While some people are hesitant to question doctors, it is imperative to ensure that patients get all the necessary information. Doctor bias and human error can cause a misdiagnosis that another physician could identify and correct.
Unfortunately, patients cannot always trust an initial diagnosis. Asking questions regarding how a physician arrived at his or her conclusion can be helpful, and a second opinion is always a good idea. Anyone with questions regarding misdiagnosis should consult with medical malpractice lawyers in Chicago.