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3 ways that diagnostic errors put patients at risk

On Behalf of | Sep 14, 2023 | Medical And Professional Malpractice

The very first step in treating a medical condition is accurately diagnosing it. Even though the internet can help someone create a shortlist of potential explanations for their current symptoms, the careful review of a licensed medical professional is almost always necessary for confirmation of any particular condition.

A doctor can potentially order testing to affirm the presence of a soft tissue injury, locate a tumor or even rule out the presence of specific pathogens. Unfortunately, millions of people every year in the United States experience diagnostic mistakes, including failure to diagnose. When a doctor doesn’t diagnose someone properly, they may face a host of medical consequences because of that professional failing. These are some of the ways that diagnostic errors can harm patients.

A delay in necessary treatment

If someone has an infection or cancer, their condition might worsen rapidly after a doctor fails to diagnose them. They require a specific course of treatment in order to improve. There are also traumatic injuries, including brain injuries and internal bleeding, which can steadily progress if not diagnosed and treated quickly. Delays in initial treatment might reduce what treatment options someone has and could reduce their chance of a full recovery.

Exposure to the wrong treatment(s)

Misdiagnosis or reaching the wrong medical conclusion can be as dangerous as failing to diagnose someone. A doctor who believes they understand the cause of someone’s symptoms might prescribe them a medication or recommend other treatment. Undergoing unnecessary medical care can lead to side effects for a patient. In extreme cases, the treatment someone received after a wrong diagnosis might limit their ability to undergo treatment for the correct diagnosis.

A patient may ignore future symptoms

‘One of the biggest and most concerning effects of having doctors fail to diagnose someone or diagnose them improperly is that the patient may stop seeking medical care for certain symptoms. They may assume they simply have to live with those challenges, and in some cases, they may use over-the-counter solutions to treat their symptoms instead of returning to a medical facility to connect with a more accurate diagnosis.

Diagnostic errors can lead to tens of thousands of dollars in medical expenses or sometimes an individual’s early death. Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit related to a diagnostic error can potentially compensate a patient who has been affected by a doctor’s mistake or help support a family affected by a victim’s untimely death.