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“Bad Medicine” series Part II: What to do when the wrong diagnosis leads to the wrong treatment or no treatment?

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Part I of the Bad Medicine series discussed the legal ramifications of being prescribed medication for a certain medical disease or problem, only to end up with a new equally or more serious disorder caused by the medication. (See “What to do when the drug prescribed to heal causes harm.”) In Part II of the Bad Medicine series, the issue discussed is not prescription medication causing harm, but misdiagnosis and the erroneous treatment based on it leading to harm. Your Denver Medical Malpractice Attorney believes that misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis are two areas often overlooked and underestimated in the amount of harm that each cause.

In 2014 the journal BMJ Quality and Safety published a study that concluded that approximately 12 million adults are misdiagnosed in the outpatient setting annually. This means that one in twenty adults are given the wrong diagnosis every year. The study went on to report that approximately half of those who are victims of diagnostic errors–some 6 million people–suffer severe harm from the misdiagnosis. The harm comes from either delayed treatment or inappropriate treatment.

Your Denver Medical Malpractice Attorney knows that there are multiple reasons for misdiagnosing a patient. The often-heard complaint about doctor visits being too short and too rushed does add to the likelihood of error, since patients may not give complete and accurate medical and family histories, and doctors may not listen as closely as they should to what the patient is telling them. Other reasons for misdiagnosis involve diagnostic tests: either ordering inappropriate tests or failing to interpret test results correctly. It is easy to see how misdiagnoses are more common in the emergency room setting where there are extreme time demands combined with very severe illnesses and injuries. 

An example of misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis leading to increased treatment costs and a heightened chance of death is when dealing with cancer. Early detection and treatment is so critical to a successful outcome in cancer patients that misdiagnosis or a delayed diagnosis can cause tragic consequences. Some regularly reported types of negligence in cancer misdiagnoses are: (1) neglecting to order a biopsy or further testing; (2) not identifying a lump during a breast exam; (3) incorrectly analyzing test results; (4) not recognizing common signs of cancer; (5) neglecting to follow up with patient or results of testing; (6) wrongly identifying a tumor as benign; (7) not ordering adequate or appropriate tests such as MRI or CT scans. 

Prevailing in a medical malpractice case based on misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis is difficult. You need an experienced attorney such as Denver Medical Malpractice Attorney Jordan Levine to show that: (1) a doctor-patient relationship existed; (2) the doctor was negligent (such as discussed above); and (3) the doctor’s negligence caused actual harm. In essence, a plaintiff must prove that a doctor in a similar specialty under similar circumstances would not have misdiagnosed the patient’s illness or condition. Call 303-333-8000 today for a free consultation.