Medical malpractice is a safety epidemic in the United States. Every day, thousands of people around the country experience some kind of medical error or negligence that could affect their health.
It can be very difficult for researchers to track medical malpractice, as they rely either on findings during postmortem examinations or self-reported information from medical professionals. It is very likely that the data available related to medical malpractice in the United States underrepresents the scope of the problem. With that said, according to the information currently available, one form of malpractice clearly seems to occur far more frequently than others.
Diagnostic errors happen with frightened frequency
Some researchers estimate that medical errors, especially diagnostic mistakes, are one of the leading causes of premature death in the United States. There are both diagnostic delays caused by an initial failure to diagnose and incorrect diagnostic conclusions.
Doctors who fail to diagnose patients when they initially report their symptoms can cause major delays in someone’s treatment and a worsening prognosis. There are also thousands of people diagnosed with the wrong condition. A doctor might assume that they have a viral cold instead of early-stage lung cancer. They fail to do the appropriate testing to rule out more severe conditions, which unfortunately means the patient doesn’t get an accurate diagnosis.
Current research estimates that 5% of patients experience some kind of diagnostic mistake every year in the United States. Those errors translate to between 40,000 and 80,000 preventable patient deaths annually.
How patients can protect themselves
Some of the top reasons for diagnostic errors include doctors not listening to patients and jumping to conclusions. Patients who head into their appointments with a list of questions or a journal of symptoms that they can refer to even when interrupted or frustrated may have an easier time pressing their doctor for accurate answers and more testing.
Those who believe that a doctor has ignored them or downplayed concerning symptoms, and caused them harm as a result, may want to seek out a second opinion and keep personal records so that they can hold the doctor or the facility that employs them accountable. Being aware of the most pressing medical malpractice issues patients face can help someone become a better advocate on their own behalf or on behalf of a loved one.