Doctors who fail to diagnose put lives in danger

When doctors misdiagnose or fail to diagnose a patient’s condition, it can result in serious patient injury or death.

When people start to feel under the weather, they often make an appointment to see their physician in hopes of finding out the root cause of the problem. In some cases, a diagnosis is given, medication is prescribed and the patient begins to feel better. Unfortunately, not all physician encounters run this smoothly. Physicians in West Virginia and across the country may fail to provide a diagnosis or misdiagnose a patient, which can lead to significant patient trauma, injuries and even death.

The facts

According to a study published in BMJ Quality and Safety, at least 12 million people in the U.S. are affected by medical misdiagnosis each year. This number includes patients who are seen in local health clinics and emergency rooms, according to an NBC News report. Some people believe, however, that this estimation is low, and that an even larger population of patients are victimized by diagnosing errors. It is possible that there are a number of patients who do not know that they have been misdiagnosed by their physician.

Although patients are encouraged to seek a second opinion after receiving a medical diagnosis, many people do not and their lives may be in danger. For example, a physician may diagnose a patient with pneumonia after studying the results of an x-ray. Another physician may take a closer look at the x-ray and find that the white cloud appearing in the patient's lungs is not pneumonia, but cancer.

How does misdiagnosis occur?

The chaotic environment of an emergency room, as well as rapidly changing medical staff can cause an oversight and increase the risk of errors. The Washington Post cited the following causes for a potential misdiagnosis:

• Failing to order the right type of screening tests

• Making a mistake when reading test results

• Not looking over the patient's medical history

Doctors in primary care settings and emergency rooms alike are often rushed to see a number of patients in a limited amount of time. By not spending enough time with each patient, doctors may avoid performing a comprehensive evaluation, leaving them unable to determine what is actually going on. There are more than 500,000 missed opportunities to diagnose patients in these types of situations, which can have devastating, life-long consequences for patients.

When to seek legal counsel

If a physician failed to properly diagnose your condition, you may be eligible for compensation. You may be plagued with extensive medical bills and be left unable to work due to a doctor's negligence. You may want to seek legal counsel from a knowledgeable attorney in West Virginia regarding the details of your medical malpractice case.