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Potential dangers of a medical misdiagnosis

The doctor-patient bond often involves a high degree of trust. For that reason, patients may never suspect that their health care professional could commit a misdiagnosis. Yet the odds tell a different story. According to a recent study, around one in 20 visits to a doctor’s office or outpatient setting results in a misdiagnosis.

Readers may question whether a misdiagnosis results in harm. According to the study’s lead author, almost half of such diagnostic errors might involve some amount of severe harm. Part of the explanation may lie in one of the powerful tools of modern medicine: potent medications. A patient could conceivably have a reaction to a pharmaceutical product. In the meantime, his or her real health condition may have gone untreated and potentially worsened.

In the case of cancer, the element of time is often against a patient. Early detection is critical in the recuperation odds for many types of cancer. Without early intervention, cancer cells might continue to spread, possibly to the point where recovery odds are disheartening. A similarly tragic outcome might be in store for a patient with symptoms of a heart attack that is erroneously sent home by an emergency room or a doctor, only to suffer a myocardial infarction a few hours, days or weeks later.

A misdiagonis might take several forms. Perhaps a patient received conflicting information from a doctor. Perhpas a patient kept receiving different diagnoses from a doctor. Perhaps a patient was told that he or she was fine, only to receive very bad news on a subsequent visit. In each of these scenarios, a consultation with a medical malpractice attorney might be worthwhile. An attorney can investigate the treatment records involving an allegation of a missed diagnosis of cancer or another condition. Although hospitals may not want to voluntarily produce such documents, an attorney may have strategies for obtaining those documents and getting at the truth.

Source: New York Post, "Odds your doctor has misdiagnosed you? Frighteningly high," April 17, 2014 

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