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Doctors' failure to properly diagnose patients tops all errors

Many Baltimore residents have heard the horror stories of someone going into surgery and coming out with an object mistakenly left in their body by the doctor. A surgical error like this actually can, and does, happen to many individuals each year. Yet, a new study shows that the typical medical malpractice case does not involve surgical or medication errors, but a misdiagnosis made by the doctor, which causes the patient future harm.

A doctor's failure to diagnose a disease can result in a medical malpractice case if the patient is injured more than he or she would have been under a timely diagnosis. Many doctors use what is known as a differential diagnosis, where they list different probable diagnoses that could have caused a patient's symptoms. If a reasonably prudent doctor would have considered a particular diagnosis for a patient, but the patient's doctor failed to consider that diagnosis, it could allow the patient to recover compensation in a medical malpractice suit based on the doctor's negligence.

Indeed, 28.6 percent of malpractice payments were shown by a recent study to be based on diagnostic errors. There were more than 100,000 such payments from 1986 to 2010. Experts indicated that the misdiagnoses are a major health problem that need to be addressed by physicians and hospitals. Indeed, experts note that patients cannot obtain proper treatment if their doctor makes an error on the initial diagnosis.

Individuals who believe they were injured as a result of a doctor's misdiagnosis should contact a qualified attorney as soon as possible in order to see if they can file a timely claim. In the end, no matter what type of doctor error led to the patient's injury, it is vital that patients get the relief they need.

Source: New York Times, "Why doctors are sued," Nicholas Bakalar, April 29, 2013

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