According to a recent report by the Institute of Medicine, most Americans receive a wrong diagnosis at some point in their lives. Not every case of wrong diagnosis has serious consequences, of course, but in some cases diagnostic errors can have a significant impact. This is especially the case when diagnostic errors occur in connection with cancer and other potentially life-threatening illnesses.
The situation is likely to become worse, too, given the complexity of the health care system around diagnosis. Unfortunately, it is not easy to gather information on diagnostic errors, since they are typically noticed after the fact, whether in medical malpractice litigation or by means of an autopsy. Also, oftentimes diagnostic errors occur due to errors in the health care system, so it isn’t always possible to lay blame on one physician.