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Failure to diagnose is an ongoing problem, study shows


Patients in Newton trust their doctors to give them a correct diagnosis when they go for treatment. However, as a new report indicates, the majority of people across the United States will receive an incorrect diagnosis in their lifetimes. The sheer number is impossible to know, but there are steps recommended to remedy this ongoing issue.

The report showed that a minimum of 5 percent of adults in the U.S. who are treated on an outpatient basis will be victimized by a wrong diagnosis. After people have died, examinations showed that wrong diagnoses contributed to 10 percent of the deaths. Adverse events for people in hospitals showed that between 6 and 17 percent were due to diagnostic mistakes. There are times when people are not subjected to one error, but to more than one.

The story of one particular family in another state is a prime example of how these diagnostic mistakes can be deadly. Their baby was showing troubling signs of fatigue soon after his birth. After several instances of misdiagnosis, the issues the baby was suffering from resulted in him developing cerebral palsy. The young man, now 20, suffers from severe disabilities. In 2002, the family's problems grew worse. The boy's father had neck pain and was diagnosed with a benign tumor that was removed. A pathologist did additional tests finding an aggressive tumor, which was never seen by his doctor. The cancer spread as the tumor returned, and the man was dead not long after.

The report recommends that there be an increased role for pathologists and radiologists, an increase in the use of technology, better training for medical professionals and taking new approaches to examine errors and try to understand why they happened. Ironically, autopsies are also a valuable part of the process as learning what actually killed a patient can benefit to learning why they might have been victimized by delayed treatment, a failure to diagnose or a misdiagnosis.

With the number of people who are dealing with misdiagnosed cancer, have lost a loved one, are confronted with worsened condition after a failure to diagnose and other failures in their health care, it's important that they know what to do after the incident occurs. Given the risks of a failure to diagnose and the research backing up its danger, speaking to a legal professional about a possible lawsuit is imperative when considering a case.

Source: NBC News, "Getting it Wrong: 'Everyone' Suffers An Incorrect or Late Diagnosis," Maggie Fox, Sep. 22, 2015

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