The Consequences of the Most-Common Medical Mistakes
Medical mistakes are alarmingly common. Even with all of our advances in medical knowledge and technology, a recent study conducted by Johns Hopkins Hospital found that medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the United States. This is a frightening statistic for all of us, and it is one that needs to improve dramatically.
The Risks of Diagnostic Errors in Medical Practice
Among medical mistakes, diagnostic errors are by far the most common. According to the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), between 10 and 20 percent of all patients are misdiagnosed. This means that when you sit down in the waiting room at your doctor’s office or the emergency room, there is a good chance that you are looking at someone who will not receive the treatment they need for their illness or injury. Of course, this person could also be you.
Diagnostic errors can be divided into three categories: (i) misdiagnosis, (ii) delayed diagnosis and (iii) failure to diagnose. With a misdiagnosis, the patient’s condition is diagnosed as something other than what it is. This is dangerous not only because the patient does not receive the treatment he or she needs, but also because the patient is receiving treatment for a condition he or she does not have. This can result in the administration of unnecessary medications, unnecessary surgical procedures, and other unnecessary treatment with unnecessary costs and unnecessary consequences.
A delayed diagnosis occurs when a physician accurately identifies a patient’s medical condition, but not in time to prevent unnecessary harm. Delayed diagnoses are common in the emergency room setting, but can occur under a wide variety of other circumstances as well. Then, there is failure to diagnose, which can result in a patient going for weeks, months or even years without the treatment he or she needs for a serious (if not life-threatening) medical condition.
What Misdiagnoses Can Mean for Patients and Their Families
While misdiagnoses of minor illnesses and injuries can have limited consequences, in many cases, the consequences suffered by patients and their loved ones will be substantial. Consider, for example, one of the most-common misdiagnoses: failure to diagnose cancer. When a patient’s cancer is misdiagnosed, the disease can spread rapidly, and this can lead to not only physical complications, but to emotional trauma, untold financial losses, and loss of the opportunity to make a full recovery.
With other misdiagnoses, the effects can be similar. In all cases, the patient goes on with his or her normal life not knowing that something is wrong. By the time the misdiagnosed condition is discovered, irreversible damage may have already been done.
In Colorado and other states, individuals who have been misdiagnosed and families who have lost loved ones due to physicians’ diagnostic errors can seek financial compensation for medical malpractice. This includes compensation for medical expenses, loss of income, pain and suffering, and other losses. If you live in the Colorado Springs area and have questions about your rights, you can call or request an appointment online to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney today.