According to statistics, medical malpractice ranks as the third leading cause of death in America. Medical malpractice means that the doctor has fallen below a basic level of care. A common form of medical malpractice is misdiagnosis, and it occurs in one out of four patients.
An overview of misdiagnosis
Misdiagnosis occurs when the doctor finds a condition but incorrectly diagnoses it as something else, such as the flu diagnosed as Lyme disease. The most commonly misdiagnosed conditions are commonly classified as the “Big Three,” and include infections, cancer, and vascular events. Stats report one-third of medical malpractice cases filed for disability or death are the result of misdiagnosis.
Doctors commonly use a differential diagnosis, meaning they eliminate conditions based on tests, symptoms, and lab results. Misdiagnosing a condition or disease often causes a patient to get unnecessary treatment, which may cause more harm. Even if a doctor correctly diagnoses a condition, the patient may still receive incorrect or “novel” treatment.
Causes of misdiagnosis
Many conditions and diseases have overlapping symptoms or symptoms that vary among gender, which makes it easy to misdiagnose. For example, Chron’s disease, food allergies, food intolerance, colon cancer, and irritable bowel syndrome all share similar symptoms. Emergency rooms place patients at a higher risk of misdiagnosis since they are commonly hectic environments and lack patient history.
Sometimes a doctor may not take a patient seriously or listen to them and dismiss symptoms as temporary, making the doctor negligent. Patient bias is another cause of misdiagnosis, which may result from gender, ethnic background, or sexual orientation. Women are at a 30% greater risk of a stroke misdiagnosis and at a 50% risk of getting a heart attack misdiagnosed. Studies find that African-Americans and other racial minorities also have a 30% greater risk of getting a stroke misdiagnosed.
Not all misdiagnosis cases rise to the level of medical malpractice, but doctors are held to a standard of care. Medical malpractice cases often require expert testimony to prove the standard of care relevant to patient’s situation and to show how the physician deviated from that standard.