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Diagnostic errors, leading cause of medical malpractice

Many Laurel, Maryland, readers may be interested to know about a recent study with a surprising finding. This study found that most medical malpractice complaints allege diagnostic errors. According to this study, for the past 25 years, most medical malpractice cases in the United States, including in Maryland, occurred due to misdiagnosis.

The study was based on 350,706 medical malpractice cases from the National Practitioner Data Bank. Of those medical malpractice claims, 28.6 percent were filed because of diagnostic errors.

Diagnostic errors can result in the permanent disability or death of the patient. A researcher pointed out that the number and degree of diagnostic errors are often hard to track and measure and thus may be underestimated. Nevertheless, the researchers stated that nearly 80,000 to 160,000 individuals in the country were affected by diagnostic errors.

Diagnostic errors may come from a failure to diagnose, a delayed diagnosis or a wrong diagnosis. It can be dangerous for the patients because these errors can complicate their health condition or cause the person to die.

Doctors and other medical professionals spend years training and being educated. That is why doctor errors should happen only very rarely if at all. When a patient is injured due to a diagnostic error, the doctor may be legally liable.

Specifically, victims who sustain injuries or complications because of diagnostic errors may have the right to receive compensation. Compensation can alleviate the victim's burden of medical expenses, loss of income and emotional distress. It may also be important for the injured party to prove that misdiagnoses caused the injury and complications. In a situation like this, it is advisable for the medical malpractice victim to seek the advice of a legal professional.

Source: Huffingtonpost, "Diagnostic errors more common in medical malpractice claims than surgical, medication errors: study," Ashley Halsey III, April 24, 2013

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