Medical mistakes kill an estimated 251,000 to 440,000 U.S. patients each year. Depending on which study you are referencing, the number of deaths will vary. We simply do not know how many U.S. patients are killed by medical mistakes each year. Many other patients suffer serious (sometimes permanent) injuries.
There are different types of medical errors, such as mistakes made during surgery or while dispensing medications. However, diagnostic errors are the most common type of medical error in the United States.
There are various reasons why diagnostic errors can occur. Common causes of diagnostic errors include:
- Poor communication. Medical mistakes, including diagnostic errors, may be attributed to poor communication between health care practitioners and patients. In other cases, there can be a breakdown in communication between health care practitioners, such as doctors and nurses. For instance, a nurse may neglect to pass along crucial information about a patient to a doctor.
- Cognitive mistakes. To err is human (this is actually the name of a famous report on medical errors!). Doctors are humans, and therefore are capable of making mistakes. For instance, they may fall victim to confirmation bias. These mistakes may lead doctors and other health care practitioners to ignore crucial information about a patient’s diagnosis.
- Testing mistakes. There are various testing mistakes that can lead to an inaccurate diagnosis. For instance, test samples can be inaccurate if they are contaminated. In other cases, doctors may fail to order testing for patients. Diagnostic tests can be incorrectly conducted or interpreted. An incorrect diagnosis can occur if testing equipment is poorly maintained or defective.
You could suffer various consequences if you are harmed by a diagnostic error. For instance, your doctor could confuse one health condition with another that has similar symptoms. In other cases, you may receive a delayed diagnosis, which could make it difficult or impossible to treat your underlying condition. This is a common outcome for cancer patients who receive a delayed diagnosis. If you are really unfortunate, you may never receive the correct diagnosis.
When Are Diagnostic Errors Medical Malpractice?
Some medical mistakes could be considered medical malpractice. It would depend on the circumstances. Unfortunately, it would be difficult for a patient or their family members to determine if medical malpractice has occurred. Specific criteria must be met before a claim for damages can be filed. This is why victims of medical mistakes should reach out to a medical malpractice attorney for help.
If you or a loved one suffered harm due to a diagnostic error, then we encourage you to reach out to one of our medical malpractice attorneys. Mitchell Leeds, LLP is a San Francisco medical malpractice law firm with a record of securing major verdicts and settlements for its clients. You can reach one of our attorneys for a free consultation by calling (415)769-3400 or by filling out our online case review form.