The human body operates using an extremely complex combination of systems. That’s why we depend on highly-trained physicians to determine what is wrong when we are suffering from concerning symptoms.
The problem is that these professionals don’t always get the diagnosis right. In fact, a report released by Johns Hopkins earlier this year revealed that medical misdiagnosis is the No. 1 cause of medical malpractice payouts in the United States.
While blatant surgical mistakes and medication errors often get the most publicity, it could actually be diagnostic errors that result in the most harm to patients, the report revealed.
The lead researcher concluded that one of the reasons diagnostic errors go largely unnoticed is that they are “difficult to measure and keep track of.” That’s partly because there often is a gap in time between a doctor’s misdiagnosis and the resulting harm to the patient.
Additionally, some cases of misdiagnosis involve medical situations that are extremely complex. Most of the time, however, the diagnostic errors are obvious.
This was the case when a young girl tragically lost her life due to complications with type 1 diabetes. The 6-year-old had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, which is why she was never administered the insulin that her body badly needed in order to bring her blood sugar to normal levels.
In the medical malpractice lawsuit that followed, the jury determined that the girl’s doctor was 100 percent to blame for the girl’s death. The pediatric endocrinologist had negligently diagnosed the girl with type 2 diabetes even though there is a “99.99 percent” chance diabetes is type 1 when found in a 6-year-old, an expert testified at trial.
Several years ago, the Wall Street Journal reported that some hospitals are implementing programs in an effort to prevent diagnostic errors like this one. The programs are intended to thwart the “premature closure” of cases before a proper diagnosis is made.
Hopefully, these programs – along with medical malpractice lawsuits – will be able to reduce the high rate of medical misdiagnosis that occurs in the United States.
Source: The Village Voice, “Type Miscast: Misdiagnosis Is Most Common Cause of Medical Malpractice Payouts,” Albert Samaha, Oct. 4, 2013