It takes years of specialized education and hands-on training for someone to become a physician. Learning about anatomy, human illnesses, modern treatments and human behavior are all integral parts of the process. Such education is crucial for the protection of the public, as medical doctors have the authority to recommend dangerous medical interventions to alleviate someone’s symptoms.
A big part of what doctors do involves determining the underlying cause of significant medical issues. The diagnostic process can take a lot of time and often requires substantial amounts of information. Doctors should rule out all potential alternative causes before determining the true reason someone has certain symptoms. Unfortunately, doctors sometimes jump to conclusions and make diagnostic mistakes that result in damaging consequences for the affected patient.
Millions of diagnostic mistakes occur every year
Although most people assume that diagnostic errors are relatively rare, they are actually one of the most common forms of medical malpractice. Researchers estimate that roughly 12 million diagnostic errors occur in any given year in the United States.
Of those mistakes, somewhere between 40,000 and 80,000 will end up having fatal consequences for the patients involved annually. Others may undergo treatment that they don’t need or start treatment later than they should, worsening their prognosis and potentially reducing their options for medical care. When doctors don’t follow the right steps to diagnose a patient, the mistakes that they make can do real harm to the misdiagnosed or undiagnosed patient.
Second opinions are a starting point for malpractice claims
When a patient strongly believes that their doctor failed them by not diagnosing them accurately, another medical professional’s opinion will inevitably be necessary. Patients need copies of their records and information from professionals in the same medical specialization to determine if their doctor’s failings might be actionable malpractice.
When a doctor reaches the wrong diagnosis and causes physical harm to a patient, the affected individual may have grounds to pursue a medical malpractice claim. Often, such claims result in insurance payouts. Other times, they end up in court. Fighting back against medical malpractice can significantly benefit those who have been harmed by the negligence or incompetence of a professional that they trusted.