Diagnostic errors (misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose) injure many patients across the United States every year. These errors can result in hospitalization, surgery, paralysis, or even death. They cause victims and families to incur medical expenses in the face of lost wages, while also missing out on the relationships and activities of daily life.
It is important to hold negligent hospitals and doctors responsible for diagnostic errors that injure patients. A Providence medical malpractice attorney can help patients access the compensation to which they are legally entitled, and also protect future patients from harm by holding medical facilities and providers accountable for negligence.
Why Diagnostic Errors Can Be Difficult to Identify
The Journal of the American Medical Association reviewed studies of autopsies performed between 1966 and 2002 to identify diagnostic errors in the victim. This study found that the reported rate of diagnostic errors involving a primary cause of death ranged from 4 percent to 49.8 percent. Why do these figures vary so widely?
One researcher told Science Daily, “We know diagnostic errors are a big problem, but we currently have no way of operationally measuring them.” It can be difficult to determine whether a patient’s symptoms are a result of diagnostic errors or an underlying medical condition. Providers and facilities can also be reluctant to admit error, which can also make it difficult to identify diagnostic errors when they occur.
What Patients Can Do About Diagnostic Errors
The possibility of diagnostic errors should not make patients feel helpless. There are many steps, both proactive and reactive, which patients can take to reduce diagnostic errors. The Patient Safety Network emphasizes the role that patient engagement can play in reducing medical malpractice, including diagnostic errors.
Because the patient is the best source of information that will ultimately lead to an accurate diagnosis, it is important for all patients to be engaged in the diagnostic process. Do not hesitate to ask questions about symptoms which do not fit a diagnosis. Active participation in the process can both increase the odds of an accurate diagnosis and reduce the odds of a diagnostic error.
When a diagnostic error does occur, it is important to hold the medical practitioner or health care facility accountable for negligence. Patients can report negligent providers to their licensing agencies (such as a state medical board or nursing board). These agencies have the authority to discipline practitioners who administer inadequate healthcare.
A patient can also hold a provider accountable through the civil court system. When a lawsuit is filed against a negligent doctor, the defendant is held financially accountable for damage caused by his or her negligence. This is both a right protected by law and an important step toward deterring future negligence. Civil lawsuits can, therefore, be used to protect other patients from future diagnostic errors.
After any diagnostic error, it is important that patients be compensated for their financial losses, and that negligent medical providers and facilities be held accountable for negligent conduct. A Providence medical malpractice attorney can help victims of diagnostic errors meet these goals.