Doctors go to medical school for a reason – they need that intensive learning and training in order to provide good care. However, even doctors don’t know everything about your health. Sometimes they look at your symptoms and health history and give you a misdiagnosis. That may mean you get the treatment you don’t need or that you don’t get the treatment you do need. What happens when your doctor gets it wrong?
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Medical Misdiagnosis Statistics
Misdiagnosis is fairly common in adults – studies put the rate of diagnostic errors anywhere from 5% to almost 50%, depending on the specialty. These incidents range from relatively minor errors such as mistaking the flu for a sinus infection to much more serious errors such as failing to diagnose cancer. While the antibiotics prescribed for a sinus infection won’t cure the flu, they also probably won’t hurt you. A cancer misdiagnosis, on the other hand, can be life-threatening.
An expert tip from Doug Mann
Children are particularly at risk for medical misdiagnosis. They’re typically reluctant patients and they’re not as good as adults at explaining their symptoms. That means doctors are often left with incomplete or inadequate information to make a diagnosis. One study found that more than half of pediatricians interviewed admitted to misdiagnosing a child at least once or twice a month. Misdiagnosis is also the top cause of medical malpractice lawsuits against pediatricians, accounting for more than 60% of the suits filed.
Medical Negligence Law
If a misdiagnosis harms you or your child, what recourse do you have? If the misdiagnosis was the result of medical negligence, you may be legally entitled to compensation for the medical expenses, ongoing treatment, pain and suffering, and other costs associated with your child’s injury. In order to get that compensation, you’ll need to file a lawsuit. Medical negligence law sets out 4 major elements for each case. You’ll need to prove each element in order to win.
First, you’ll need to show that your doctor had a legal duty to your child; that’s automatically proven if the doctor treated your child. Next, you’ll need to prove that the doctor failed to meet the accepted standard of care in the industry, thus failing to meet that duty. This is called “negligence.” For example, imagine your child is sick with a sore throat and fever and the doctor fails to do a standard throat swab to check for infections.
Third, your child must suffer an actual injury. There’s no case if your child isn’t harmed, even if the doctor failed to meet the standard of care. Finally, you’ll need to show that the doctor’s negligence caused your child’s injury. In our sore throat example, imagine that the child ends up in the hospital due to a serious infection that the doctor should have caught with the standard throat swab.
Note that most misdiagnoses are not the result of medical negligence. They may be caused by lack of information, misunderstandings between doctor and patient, or by the limits of available testing and knowledge. A medical malpractice lawsuit is only an option where medical negligence was involved.
How Can We Avoid Medical Misdiagnoses?
A medical misdiagnosis is a scary thought, especially when it comes to our children. How can we decrease the risks of medical misdiagnosis?
- Give your doctor complete information about your health and lifestyle, even if you’re embarrassed or worried about their opinions. Omitting information or lying to your doctor means they’re making a diagnosis without all the facts they need. They’re there to care for you, not to judge you.
- Talk to your kids about how to talk to doctors. It’s tough for kids to express themselves clearly about their symptoms. Talk to them about how to describe what’s going on. Make sure they know they can talk to you about anything health-related, even if it seems embarrassing.
- Write down your symptoms. When you’re not feeling well, it can be easy for a symptom to slip your mind. Keeping a list is a good way to make sure your doctor has all the necessary information.
- Make sure your doctor has your complete health records. That may involve calling up your old doctors and other care providers to get copies of your records. Your doctor will be able to make better medical judgments with a complete picture of your health history.
- When your doctor delivers a diagnosis, ask what you should expect and what you should watch out for. You can keep an eye out for symptom changes that may indicate a misdiagnosis and get yourself the right treatment as soon as possible.
- Get a second opinion. If you’re worried about a potential misdiagnosis, you can always see another doctor and get another opinion. A second doctor may have fresh insight or see a pattern that your first doctor missed.
If you believe you’ve been misdiagnosed, you should seek out a second opinion right away to make sure you get the treatment you need as soon as possible. Once you’ve taken care of your health, you may choose to speak with an attorney about your rights and whether you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. You’ll need to act quickly; the law gives you a limited amount of time to file a claim for compensation.
Our experienced medical malpractice attorneys are standing by to help you get the compensation you deserve. Contact us today or stop by one of our convenient locations for a free consultation and case evaluation to learn about your legal options. We understand that no lawsuit can undo your injuries, but it can help you manage expensive medical bills and make sure your family is taken care of while you recover.