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Be Aware: Diagnosis Errors Rampant

Effective medical treatment depends on accurate diagnosis. We rely on doctors and medical practitioners to accurately identify diseases or injuries. Incorrect diagnoses lead to delayed recovery, severe injury, even death. For one star, it ended a brilliant career.

When a doctor mistakenly removed non-cancerous nodules from both sides of Julie Andrews’ throat, the voice of My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins was silenced. Unfortunately, diagnosis errors of this magnitude are common.

Medical misdiagnosis is at epidemic levels in the United States. An estimated 80,000 to 160,000 patients die or suffer serious injury because of misdiagnosis each year in the United States — and this may be a low estimate. Due to the amount of time elapsing between a diagnosis and when an error becomes evident, many mistaken diagnoses go unreported.

Diagnostic errors — including incorrect, missed or delayed diagnoses — are the leading cause of successful medical malpractice claims according to researchers at Johns Hopkins. In a study of 350,706 medical malpractice claims paid between 1986 and 2010, diagnostic errors accounted for:

  • The highest number of claims (28.6 percent). Treatment errors accounted for 27 percent, surgical mishaps for 24 percent, obstetrical problems for 7 percent, medication errors for 5 percent and anesthesia errors for 3 percent.
  • Highest percentage of total payments (35.2 percent)
  • Almost twice as many deaths or disabilities as other causes

The majority — 68.8 percent — of diagnosis errors were made in outpatient care. Only 31.2 percent occurred during inpatient care. However, inpatient diagnosis errors resulted in more fatalities — 48.4 percent as opposed to 36.9 of outpatient errors.

Misdiagnosis is the most common, most costly and most deadly of medical errors. If you or a loved one has suffered because of a diagnosis error, contact a skilled medical malpractice attorney.