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Misdiagnosis can cause serious harm – and even death

There are many ways in which a doctor can make a mistake. If in making that error the doctor failed to live up to the medical standard of care, and consequently caused harm to the patient, it may result in a medical malpractice claim.

Some mistakes happen more often than others, however, and a recent study offers some compelling insight. That’s because the research identifies the type of medical error that most often causes serious harm to a patient.

Misdiagnosis and medical malpractice claims

The study, published in July 2019 in the peer-reviewed journal “Diagnosis,” saw researchers review about 55,000 closed medical malpractice claims that had been filed between 2006 and 2015. They then focused only on the incidents that led to serious harm, meaning permanent disability or death.

More than one-third of those claims that led to serious harm were attributable to misdiagnosis, according to the study. That could include a doctor making an incorrect or delayed diagnosis. That figure makes misdiagnosis the leading cause of permanent disability and death among the medical error claims included in the study.

The researchers also found that about three-quarters of all those serious-harm claims due to a diagnostic error could be tied to three types of conditions: cancer, vascular events and infection.

The consequences of medical malpractice

Doctor errors can affect anyone, at any point in their life, with any type of illness or health condition, and during all aspects of care. These mistakes can have devastating consequences. As the lead author of the research puts it, “For many patients, misdiagnosis causes severe harm and expense, and in the worst cases, death.”

It’s likely nothing will make a victim or their loved ones feel truly normal again, like they were before the mistake. But in these instances, a medical malpractice claim may be able to help them find some sense of justice.

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