Medical Malpractice by Misdiagnosis

South Carolina Medical Misdiagnosis Cases overview

When we go see a doctor we trust him or her to follow the proper protocol so that they can make an accurate diagnosis. This requires doctors actively listening to their patients, communicating with others and then following up later to ensure that the symptoms are responding to treatment. Sadly, this does not always happen and South Carolina patients pay the price. To find out more about medical misdiagnosis, keep reading.

Statistics on Medical Malpractice by Misdiagnosis

Studies concerning medical misdiagnosis have found that the problem is far more common than many patients realize. In fact, many believe that between 10 and 20 percent of all medical cases involve missed, incorrect or improperly delayed diagnoses. This number is substantially higher than the number of cases involving medication errors or surgery on the wrong part of a patient. Yet, despite the prevalence of misdiagnosis, it is seldom discussed.

Additional research has found that these diagnostic errors are often fatal, with one federally funded study showing that 28 percent of the diagnostic mistakes reported anonymously by doctors proved to be life threatening. Some terrifying research appeared last year in the British Medical Journal which analyzed hundreds of thousands of medical malpractice claims and determined that diagnostic mistakes lead to the death or permanent injury of as many as 160,000 people every year.

Examples of medical misdiagnosis

Medical misdiagnosis typically happens in one of two ways. First, it occurs when a doctor jumps to the wrong conclusion about a patient’s condition and that wrong decision leads to additional health problems for the patient. These problems can either be a worsening of the existing health issues or the creation of new problems that were caused by the incorrect treatment approach.

A second scenario that leads to medical misdiagnosis occurs when a doctor fails to perform sufficient tests or conduct enough research to identify a disease that he or she should have suspected was present. This happens when doctors simply ignore seemingly obvious signs and symptoms and are instead set on an incorrect conclusion that they have not thoroughly investigated.

The fact that such common mistakes continue to occur, costing hundreds of lives every year, may seem surprising to some given recent advances in medical technology. Though medicine has become much more sophisticated, the reality is that a doctor’s mind remains an essential tool for successfully identifying, diagnosing and treating health problems. There is so far no substitute for a well-trained doctor’s keen observation, which is why it is so important that doctors stay sharp and pay attention when meeting with sick patients.

Causes of medical misdiagnosis

One of the most common reasons for medical misdiagnosis is a breakdown in communication. Experts say that communication troubles exist at nearly every level of the health care industry: between patients and doctors, doctors and nurses and even amongst doctors. This miscommunication leads to misdiagnosis because people are operating with incomplete information. Other common problems that lead to misdiagnosis include failure to take thorough medical histories, failure to follow-up with patients about treatment after the initial appointment and a failure to refer complicated cases to specialist physicians.

Does misdiagnosis equal medical malpractice?

It’s important to understand that misdiagnosis by itself does not mean that there was negligence on the part of the doctor. The truth is that perfectly good doctors can make mistakes while still using a reasonable standard of care. The question is whether your doctor was acting competently when the misdiagnosis was made, or did he or she fail to engage in the kind of critical thinking that others in the medical community would have expected.

Determining this can be tricky and often involves looking into what the doctor did or didn’t do prior to deciding on a diagnosis. Doctors use a system known as differential diagnosis to determine what’s wrong with and how to treat sick patients. This system requires doctors to conduct an evaluation of the patient and then list possible diagnoses to treat the observed symptoms. The doctor should ask detailed questions about the symptoms, the patient’s previous medical history, order tests or even refer the patient to a specialist, all in an attempt to decide which of the possible diagnoses is best.

If the doctor failed to conduct a proper differential diagnosis, then a medical malpractice case becomes much easier to prove. The goal of any medical malpractice case involving diagnostic error is to show that another doctor, in a similar specialty and under similar circumstances, would not have misdiagnosed the patient’s condition.

This is usually proven by showing one of two things: that the doctor failed to perform enough investigation into the matter to arrive at the correct diagnosis or that the doctor never even considered the correct diagnosis, a lapse that a reasonably competent doctor would never have made.

David Aylor has assisted countless injured individuals across South Carolina and helped secure damages for the harms they’ve suffered. David Aylor understands that medical malpractice can devastate a patient and his or her family, leaving everyone worried about how the injured individual will get back on his or her feet, both physically and financially. If you’ve been injured by a doctor, nurse, paramedic or medical technician and believe you have suffered from South Carolina medical malpractice, feel free to contact David Aylor today at 843.577.5530.