Doctors go through extensive education and training before they’re allowed to handle their own patients. In theory, this thorough preparation would ensure that patients are safely and effectively treated. Sadly, though, this simply isn’t the case. In fact, one recent study shows just how common diagnostic errors are in the medical profession.
Diagnostic errors are far too common
The numbers are staggering. One estimate used in the medical field is a 10-15% error rate. Even empirical studies, when extrapolated, show that diagnostic errors affect millions of people, with approximately 31 million errors occurring on an annual basis. But one study of 348 primary care patients found an error rate of 13%. If that number is extrapolated, then there could be hundreds of millions of diagnostic errors that occur each year.
Although the majority of those diagnostic errors are relatively minor, serious misdiagnosis occurs far too frequently, too. Autopsy based studies have shown that there are as many as 80,000 deaths each year that are attributable to diagnostic error, but with some studies showing a serious misdiagnosis error rate of more than 0.8%, there could be as many 10 million diagnostic errors each year that result in serious harm to patients.
And these error rates vary depending on the disease involved. For example, one recent study analyzed the results of other studies and found that lung cancer was misdiagnosed more than 20% of the time, and melanoma was misdiagnosed nearly 10% of the time. Other medical conditions, such as aortic aneurysms, endocarditis, meningitis, and encephalitis, also saw error rates in excess of 20%. Spinal abscesses saw a diagnostic error rate of more than 60%. Sadly, these are serious medical conditions, too, meaning that those who are subjected to misdiagnosis can face serious, long-term harm and even death.
What this means for you
Studying medical errors is difficult, which means that there can be variations in the statistics that are generated by each of them. However, all of these studies show that innocent patients are often put in harm’s way by their medical professional. Just as it is with gathering accurate statistics, it can be difficult to determine the exact cause of a medical error, primarily because doctors and their employers do everything they can to protect themselves. This may mean that they provide complicated justifications for their actions, or they try to conceal information that would be indicative of medical malpractice.
Gather the information you need for a legal claim
Don’t let outspoken medical professionals and hospitals explain away the harm that has been caused to you. Instead, you should diligently work to build the persuasive medical malpractice claim that you need to find accountability and recover compensation. This may mean subpoenaing hospital records and talking to expert witnesses who can speak to the standard of care that you received and the extent of your damages. Depositions of those medical professionals who treated you may be beneficial, too, especially since they can help you gain some insight into their decision-making process at the time and lock in their testimony. You can then use this information to your advantage during trial preparation and litigation.
We know that these can be complicated and stressful matters. But you can have an advocate on your side who can help you gather evidence and craft compelling legal arguments. If that type of advocacy is appealing to you, then now may be the time for you to reach out to an experienced medical malpractice attorney of your choosing.