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Misdiagnosis more common than other errors

New Jersey medical patients might be interested to hear that misdiagnoses are more common than other types of medical errors, including drug errors or surgery on the wrong person or body part. A pediatric infectious disease specialist for the Georgetown University School of Medicine discovered this after he was told over and over again that the pain he was experiencing in his throat was merely due to acid reflux. It was, in fact, due to cancer.

A resident at the Maryland hospital eventually made the correct diagnosis on the specialist by using a simple procedure that the doctors whom the specialist had gone to had never tried. His tumor was the size of a peach pit and had gone undetected for seven months. The man ended up having to have his voice box removed, which he believes would not have been necessary had the cancer been detected sooner.

The man stated that he was shocked by his misdiagnosis. However, patient safety experts state that misdiagnoses happen all the time. They just tend to be overlooked, with few of them resulting in legal action. Those experts go on to say that 10 to 20 percent of patient cases are affected by misdiagnoses. However, they say that drug errors and wrong site surgery errors still receive more attention.

Some people believe that the problem goes unaddressed because it is difficult to measure and the solutions for fixing the problem are not obvious. Misdiagnosis errors can sometimes take years to discover, and even then doctors do not always know how they got it wrong.

A patient who is injured due to a misdiagnosis or a failure to diagnose may choose to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. Such a lawsuit would allow them to attempt to seek compensation for the error. Medical malpractice lawyers might be able to help them to negotiate a settlement with the doctor who made the error, as well as the doctor's employer.

Source: The Record, "Misdiagnosis more common than drug errors or wrong-site surgery", Sandra G. Boodman, June 06, 2013

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