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The serious nature of misdiagnosis for victims

Victims of medical malpractice are protected through the legal process. According to a study done by BMJ Quality & Safety, about 12 million adults in the United States who seek outpatient care are misdiagnosed by their doctors. The researchers who conducted the study stated that in at least half of those cases, the misdiagnosis had the potential to result in serious harm. Previous studies had made hospitals the focus of their study, but this one found that patients seeking outpatient care may also be at risk. The number of victims impacted represents 5 percent of all outpatients in the U.S.

In reaching their conclusions, researchers analyzed diagnosis and follow-up visits. Because researchers concluded that one half of misdiagnosis situations had the potential to result in serious harm, this means that approximately 6 million outpatient victims are impacted each year by the misdiagnosis figures reported in the study. A previous study found that the most common causes of misdiagnosis include problems related to ordering diagnostic tests; errors made by doctors interpreting test results; and inaccurate medical histories.

Researchers noted that it is important for doctors to slow down, listen to their patients and their health concerns, and conduct a thorough exam. Symptoms doctors most commonly misdiagnose include symptoms of more serious conditions such as shortness of breath, cough and abdominal pain. When a victim has suffered a failure to diagnose, it can lead to a worsened condition by causing harm to the victim that they would not have suffered had their medical condition been correctly diagnosed in a timely manner.

When victims have suffered harm as a result of medical malpractice, there may be legal remedies they can pursue for the recovery of damages they have suffered. Victims of medical malpractice should be familiar with the legal options available to them during their difficult time.

Source: CBS News, "12 million Americans misdiagnosed each year," Jessica Firger, April 17, 2014

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