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Did A Medical Provider Fail To Diagnosis Your Illness?


When a doctor, laboratory or another medical provider fails to diagnose a serious illness, the consequences for the patient can be devastating. Life-threatening diseases such as cancer can be cured if diagnosed and treated at an early stage. Once the disease has progressed, however, it may be too late to achieve a positive outcome.

Based in Miami, Florida, Dolan Dobrinsky Rosenblum Bluestein, LLP is highly experienced in pursuing compensation on behalf of patients and their families in South and Central Florida who have been harmed by medical negligence. Our lawyers have recovered more than $100 million dollars in compensation for our clients in personal injury and wrongful death cases. For a free case evaluation, call 786-420-4785.

Did The Doctor Commit Medical Malpractice?

Not every instance where a doctor fails to diagnose a serious medical condition in time to prevent serious harm is considered malpractice. Sometimes, a doctor can do everything that he or she should, and the patient still suffers serious harm or dies. Your doctor’s actions (or failure to take action) would only be considered malpractice if his or her treatment fell short of the standard of care for the profession.

The following are examples of misdiagnosis that may be considered medical malpractice:

  • Failure to diagnose a heart attack or stroke in a hospital emergency room;
  • Failure to diagnose cancer despite observable symptoms;
  • Failure to order appropriate lab tests and images to diagnose cancer or other illness; and
  • Lab test errors, such as miscommunication or misreading of your lab test results.

Medical treatment continues to improve, and many health conditions once considered incurable can now be successfully treated. Unfortunately, the prognosis changes if treatment comes too late.

Diagnostic Errors, The Most Common Medical Malpractice Claim

When you think of medical malpractice, you may imagine surgical mistakes. While these do happen, a situation that’s more common is diagnostic errors. In fact, diagnostic errors account for the largest fraction of medical malpractice claims, as observed by researchers at Johns Hopkins over a 25-year period. Diagnostic errors also accounted for the highest number of total payouts and accounted for the most severe patient harm.

It is estimated that 160,000 patients are affected by diagnosis errors in the United States every year. More than half of them involve risk management issues and poor decision making. Fifty-four percent are high severity cases, with 36 percent of those resulting in death. Thirty-six percent occur in outpatient settings.

What exactly is a diagnostic error? It can be a failure to diagnosis, a wrong diagnosis or a delay in diagnosis. Failure to diagnose is the most common, accounting for more than 54 percent of claims.

Claim Statistics

Diagnostic errors can occur at any part of the diagnostic process. Most occur during patient evaluation, accounting for 33 percent of medical malpractice claims. Ordering appropriate tests and interpreting the results of these tests each account for 22 percent of claims.

Most claims involve general medicine providers, with 24 percent of claims. Nineteen percent of claims are directed at hospitals and other medical facilities, and 14 percent involve radiology departments. Emergency rooms and medical subspecialties (such as cardiovascular and neurology) each accounted for 11 percent of medical malpractice claims.

Understanding the Magnitude of the Problem

Diagnostic errors are a huge problem in the medical industry, yet these mistakes do not get the attention that other types of medical malpractice do. For example, to reduce the risk of surgical errors, many hospitals have created checklists for surgeons to abide by during procedures.

Even though diagnostic errors account for far more medical malpractice claims, not enough is being done to reduce them. In fact, in many cases they may not even be reported, so they may occur at even higher rates.

This is frightening, considering that diagnostic errors are more likely to lead to death than other types of medical errors, at a rate of just under 41 percent vs. 23.9 percent. Permanent disability is also a possibility after a diagnostic error.

Sadly, diagnostic errors will likely continue to occur in the future. However, while doctors are human, just like the rest of us, they should be working to improve their error rate in order to protect those in their care.

Breast Cancer Misdiagnoses

When it comes to misdiagnosis, not all medical conditions are created equal. Some conditions are more likely to result in a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis than others. Among the most commonly misdiagnosed ailments are three forms of cancer: lung cancer, colorectal cancer and breast cancer. A study conducted at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology found that all three were among the five most commonly misdiagnosed conditions, joining heart attack and appendicitis.

Make A Plan And Stick To It

Going to the doctor can be intimidating. If you do not have a regular doctor, or have been referred to a specialist, it can be easy to defer to their expertise and assume they do not make mistakes. Medical mistakes, including misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis, are incredibly common. Even highly trained doctors make mistakes. You need to understand that taking an active role in your own care is important. You should maintain a record of any medical tests or blood work you’ve had done. If possible, you should obtain a copy of your doctor’s notes after each visit. Go into each appointment with notes about your symptoms, ask questions, write down the answers and make sure you get what you came for.

Medical History Isn’t Everything

There is some misunderstanding when it comes to cancer about the role played by family medical history. Many people believe that if breast cancer did not strike their mothers or grandmothers, they are safe. This, sadly, is not true. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the majority of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer had no family history of the disease. There is no single risk factor that determines whether or not you can get breast cancer. While the majority of breast cancer patients are females over 50, the condition does strike younger women and even men.

Stay Vigilant

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force suggests that women between 50 and 74 years of age should get a screening mammogram every two years. Women over 40 are asked to discuss screening schedules with their doctors. While breast cancer does not always lead to symptoms right away, women should be on the lookout for the known signs of the disease, including breast pain, nipple discharge other than breast milk, changes in the size or shape of the breast, and a new lump or lumps in the breast. If you suffer from any of these symptoms, you should see a doctor as soon as possible and follow up on recommendations.

Always Ask Questions

The most common reason for delayed diagnosis of breast cancer is that a biopsy was not performed after an abnormal test result. If you have one or more symptoms and a biopsy is not ordered, you should ask why. Does the doctor want more information? When and how will that information be gathered? Is there another doctor you should see? Is there another test you should take? Should you be making another appointment now? Delay can be fatal when it comes to a serious health problem like breast cancer. It is often helpful to write down questions in advance just to get into the habit of starting a dialogue with your doctor.

Breast cancer claims the lives of more than 40,000 women each year. The sooner breast cancer is diagnosed, the better the chances of survival. A missed or delayed diagnosis can be fatal. Know the signs of breast cancer and protect yourself by staying on top of your medical care.

Schedule Your Free Consultation

If you have suffered a serious injury in Miami from misdiagnosis of your condition, or if a family member has died due to medical errors, call 305-371-2692, or contact us online for a confidential attorney consultation.

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