Those suffering from medical ailments make appointments, pay copays, and sit in waiting rooms to hear from doctors about what is or is not wrong with them. Doctors, professionals trained and trusted to diagnose patient symptoms, are still capable of mistakes – but what happens when a diagnosis is incorrect? Or late?
A Pennsylvania woman was awarded $3 million dollars after her unfortunate misdiagnosis. The woman visited her doctor’s office with sinus complaints. With neither practicing physicians onsite during the visit, a physician’s assistant attended to the woman, and upon examination recommended a steroid treatment. This treatment masked the ailing patient’s condition and, without antibiotics, allowed the infection to evolve to a brain abscess. This led to emergency surgery, two months of hospitalization, rehab, and continuing emotional and cognitive issues. The whole medical malpractice claim could have been prevented on that first visit.
According to a recent study released out of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, wrong or missed diagnoses comprised the lion’s share of medical malpractice claims in the U.S. over the past 25 years. The study, authored by Dr. David Newman-Toker, looked at over 350,000 medical malpractice claims and estimated that approximately 160,000 claims a year involve either death or permanent damage as a result of a misdiagnosis.
Medicine is understandably a difficult field, and studies have shown that up to a quarter of the population will receive an incorrect diagnosis. Fortunately, many of these misdiagnoses are harmless but one can never be quite too careful. The Journal of Clinical Oncology estimates the misdiagnoses rate for certain cancers around 44%.
And although rare, misdiagnosis can be good news. A Maine man won his malpractice suit against his physician who diagnosed him with aggressive stage 4 cancer that was certainly terminal. Upon further examination, doctors informed this patient that despite being told he had months to live, his original diagnosis was incorrect and he had a highly treatable cancer. A suit ensued for “tremendous emotional distress” and the court ruled in favor of the misdiagnosed man awarding him $200,000 in damages.
Medical malpractice, a $3.6 billion per year field, is a costly and dangerous warning sign to patients to always be cautious of professional opinions. Some basic suggestions:
1) Ask questions. When visiting a physician, ask follow up questions. Lay your symptoms on the table, and if a diagnosis doesn’t seem right to you, communicate these thoughts. Doctors are not mind-readers and cannot know other causes for symptoms they’re not told about.
2) Get a second opinion. If you feel treatment is not working, or if the treatment seems overly invasive, it is not an insult to seek a consultation with another doctor. Doctors wish to avoid any and all claims and if they missed something, they are more than happy that it is found early, even by someone else, before expenses build up.
3) Medical malpractice can be committed by those other than medical doctors. Understand that therapists, nurses, assistants, and other attendants can commit medical malpractice errors in your treatment.
4) Seek a knowledgeable attorney. Ninety-three percent of medical malpractice cases are settled, and an individual who has a claim must be aware of all the intricacies of a settlement agreement and must have keen negotiators on their side in order to better their chances at success.
If you or a loved are suffering or has suffered as a result of an incorrect or late diagnosis, improper care or treatment, or an exacerbation of an existing condition or injury due to failures by trained medical professionals, do not hesitate to contact our experienced Louisiana personal injury firm to schedule your free confidential consultation. Cardone Law serves clients in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and throughout Louisiana.
Injured? Phone Cardone. 504-522-3333.