Every treatment plan begins with a diagnosis. Even if you go to the doctor with a cough, stuffy nose and fever, the doctor needs to diagnose you with a cold or the flu before prescribing a treatment plan.
If a doctor misdiagnoses your cold or flu, it probably wouldn’t have a devastating effect on you. You may be sick a couple more days than you should have, but in most cases, there’s no permanent harm done. However, when it comes to more serious illnesses, a missed or delayed diagnosis could prove debilitating or deadly, and sadly, it happens more often than you would think.
How serious is a delayed or missed diagnosis?
Simply put, nearly one-third of all medical malpractice claims that end in permanent disability or death result from a delayed or missed diagnosis. This makes this mistake one of the most serious sources of harm you face. However, it gets worse. Nearly 75% of diagnostic errors encompass three categories of illnesses:
- Cancer, most often lung cancer
- Vascular events, most often stroke
- Infections, most often sepsis
Researchers dubbed these three illness categories as the “big three” since the data indicate that these are the conditions most often misdiagnosed or in which the diagnosis is delayed. Of the errors made in diagnosing these conditions, nearly one-half resulted in permanent disability, and the other half ended in death. In approximately 85% of cases in which diagnostic errors occurred, “failures of clinical judgment” resulted in the harm done to patients.
Failures to properly diagnose cancer most often occurred in outpatient settings, while diagnostic mistakes relating to infections and vascular events happened in emergency rooms.
What happens after a delayed or missed diagnosis?
When a doctor makes a mistake in diagnosing a serious condition such as the “big three,” it costs patients more than just money — it can cost them their lives or their futures. One wrong move can change the course of a family’s life forever. Doctors must meet a certain standard when it comes to your care, and when they don’t meet it, you may suffer serious harm.
It may be possible to pursue compensation for the harm done by a doctor who should have taken more steps to get it right. The best way to determine the best course of action in your circumstances would be to discuss it with an attorney experienced in medical malpractice claims.