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.
Although it would be great if the medical system developed more effective ways to internally monitor and control diagnostic errors, this is not likely to happen quickly or extensively enough. Patients can take certain steps to help reduce the likelihood of a diagnostic error, but in the end it is physicians who have the expertise necessary to make accurate determinations about a patient’s medical condition and the proper course of treatment.
Patients who have suffered serious harm as a result of a diagnosis error should, of course, seek out the assistance of an experienced medical malpractice attorney. Doing so will help ensure that they understand their options for recovery and build the best case possible, should they decide to pursue medical malpractice litigation.