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Misdiagnosis: The Human Cost


People go to the doctor with an ailment, hoping to find relief from symptoms that are troubling, even frightening. But all too often symptoms are misdiagnosed or diagnosed too late to save a patient’s life. Tragically, disability and death are the all-too-common result of an improper diagnosis.

The Startling Facts 

It happens more than you might think on an annual basis: doctors misread symptoms and provide treatments that are not appropriate, or put off treatment altogether.  A recent study has attempted to quantify the problem here in the United States, and concludes that roughly 800,000 people suffer serious outcomes due to misdiagnosis, over half of them actually losing their lives to treatable conditions that simply did not receive the correct medical interventions. And those numbers reflect only the most tragic outcomes.  The study estimates that up to 100 million diagnostic errors occur every year!

Mediating the Problem 

The study also notes that interventions to mediate the issue of misdiagnosis are not out of reach.  Because five in ten misdiagnoses relate to just a handful of medical conditions, and five of those conditions encompass 40 percent of misdiagnoses, addressing just those five conditions alone would be a great start to reducing serious outcomes. That means doctors need to actively address the key issues related to misdiagnosis:

1-    Cognitive errors that occur when atypical symptoms appear, and doctors assume it is not a serious condition.

2-    Bias errors relating to the dismissal of a patient’s complaints due to their age or race, for example.

What’s the Fix? 

So how can doctors avoid these two common issues?  One suggestion from the study is to include a second opinion as a matter of routine when there is a possibility of a severe issue at hand. If health care providers simply consulted with another colleague before drawing conclusions, it could save lives.

Another proposed solution? AI. The study’s authors suggest that simply providing more testing when patients initially complain of symptoms could lessen the horrendous outcomes so many suffer.

Spending more time communicating with the patient and their family is another important key to reducing misdiagnosis errors.

Finally, including a range of healthcare providers—from pathologists to radiologists and whatever else is necessary in between—could ultimately save lives.

When Misdiagnosis Impacts You 

Have you or a loved one suffered serious consequences as a result of a misdiagnosis? Perhaps it involved a treatment of medication or surgery that had ill-fated outcomes, or perhaps your symptoms were shrugged off as nothing to worry about, only later escalating to have serious consequences.  There is every possibility that such situations involve medical malpractice, and you could be entitled to damages to address medical bills, lost wages, and more.  To discuss the possibilities, contact the aggressive Baltimore personal injury attorneys at The Law Office of Hasson D. Barnes today.



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