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The problem of failure to diagnose in Massachusetts


People in Massachusetts and across the country who are having a health problem that necessitates a trip to the doctor harbor a natural expectation that they will receive the care they need. That includes the proper diagnosis being made. However, a medical degree is not a guarantee that the doctors and medical professionals who are handling the case will make the right diagnosis. In some instances, this is innocuous and no damage is done. In others, the failure to diagnose cancer can lead to delayed treatment, worsened condition and even death.

Incidents, such as these, do not just happen to people who have no knowledge of medicine. They even happen to doctors. One case in point involved a pediatric infectious disease specialist who had throat pain and was told that it was acid reflux. Eventually, a resident discovered the tumor in the fellow doctor's throat by using a technique that experienced specialists failed to use. It had grown for seven months and the man needed to have a surgical procedure that removed his voice box. He was not able to speak normally and expressed himself in a whisper. This is not an isolated incident as it is believed that between 10 and 20 percent of cases involve misdiagnosis. The issue surpasses surgery on the wrong body part or wrong patient and drug mistakes.

Studies have shown how devastating these mistakes can be. A report from 2009 discovered that out of the 583 diagnostic errors that were made, 28 percent threatened the patients' lives, ended with death or permanent disability. Another study indicated that fatal errors in diagnoses in intensive care units in the United States equal the more than 40,000 deaths from breast cancer. This is a continuous problem that's gone on for years. A 1991 study discovered that misdiagnosis was responsible for 14 percent of adverse events. Seventy five percent were due to a negligent physician or other medical professional.

Given the aftereffects of delayed treatment for any medical problem, it is important that those who have been affected by this know how to proceed when it happens. If there has been a worsened condition and the person is suffering because of it or if there was a death, the case must be investigated to pursue compensation with the help of a legal professional experienced in medical errors.

Source: KaiserHealthNews.org, "Doctors' Diagnostic Errors Are Often Not Mentioned But Can Take A Serious Toll," accessed on Dec. 28, 2014

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