Studies show that misdiagnosis is very common in the U.S., with tens of millions of patients receiving a misdiagnosis every year. About five percent of adult patients who seek outpatient care are misdiagnosed, and a whopping 88 percent of patients who receive a second opinion are given either a modified or completely changed diagnosis (66 percent and 21 percent, respectively). More than half (51 percent) of second opinions provided for breast imaging tests/screenings result in a substantial change in interpretation.
Cancer is one of the most commonly misdiagnosed medical conditions, with over 40 percent of some types of cancer being first misdiagnosed. The most commonly misdiagnosed types of cancer include prostate cancer, thyroid cancer, and breast cancer, as well as lung cancer and others.
Perhaps most alarming, nearly 30 percent of misdiagnoses lead to life-changing or life-threatening consequences, including unnecessary or incorrect treatments, delayed treatment, increased medical care costs, significant physical pain and emotional distress, and death. At Wolf & Fuhrman LLP, we believe that medical providers who fail to properly screen patients, analyze test results, and/or diagnose patients should be held accountable.
Examples of Misdiagnosis
There are many specific examples of misdiagnosis, but in general, any time a medical provider does not provide an accurate or timely diagnosis, the patient has been misdiagnosed. Sometimes, medical providers have trouble diagnosing rare conditions or abnormal symptoms; this does not necessarily constitute medical malpractice. However, if a provider fails to act in a way that another qualified provider would have or acts in a way that another qualified provider would not have in the same or similar circumstances, leading to misdiagnosis, the affected patient and/or their family could have a medical malpractice case.
Some examples of misdiagnosis include:
- A patient goes to the emergency room with chest pain and other symptoms of a heart attack, but is told that she is having an anxiety attack and is sent home without treatment
- A patient seeks treatment for gastric distress and is diagnosed with indigestion when she is actually experiencing a heart attack
- A patient seeks treatment for fever, chills, fatigue, and muscle soreness and is diagnosed with the flu when they really have Lyme disease
- A patient is misdiagnosed with viral meningitis or strep throat when, in reality, they have bacterial meningitis
- A nursing mother is diagnosed with mastitis and given antibiotics when she actually has inflammatory breast cancer
These are just some examples of misdiagnosis. If you believe that your injuries, medical condition, or loved one’s death resulted from a diagnostic error, such as misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, or failure to diagnose, you could be entitled to financial compensation for your related damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, lost enjoyment of life, funeral expenses, and more.
How Does Misdiagnosis Happen & Who Is Liable?
Misdiagnosis occurs due to a wide variety of reasons. To be considered malpractice, misdiagnosis must result from substandard medical care. In other words, if the doctor or medical professional who treated you failed to uphold the accepted standard of care, leading to your misdiagnosis, you likely have a medical malpractice case.
Some of the most common causes of misdiagnosis include medical professionals:
- Failing to recognize symptoms
- Ignoring some or all symptoms
- Dismissing patients’ symptoms
- Confusing symptoms of different conditions
- Failing to consider abnormal symptoms
- Failing to conduct/order proper tests
- Failing to screen for certain conditions, such as cancer
- Misreading test results/misanalysis of lab findings
- Failing to refer patients to specialists
- Failing to conduct adequate follow-up care
If your medical provider failed to uphold the standard of care—meaning they did not do something another qualified provider would have or did something another qualified provider would not have—leading to your misdiagnosis and subsequent injuries, you could have a claim against the medical provider. When misdiagnosis occurs in hospitals and other medical facilities, the institution itself could be legally liable for all of the victims’ damages. However, if the misdiagnosis was provided by an independently contracted physician or another self-employed medical professional, the individual provider is likely liable.
At Wolf & Fuhrman LLP, our Bronx misdiagnosis attorneys can review the details of your case and determine who is liable for your pain, suffering, and financial losses. We have extensive experience and know how to utilize all available evidence to build a strong case on your behalf.
Who Is Most at Risk of Misdiagnosis?
Unfortunately, some medical providers are more likely to dismiss or fail to recognize serious symptoms in certain groups. According to an in-depth report by Healthline, women and minorities in the United States are as much as 20 to 30 percent more likely to receive a misdiagnosis. The risk increases in certain specific areas; for example, young women experiencing heart attacks are significantly more likely to be misdiagnosed than male patients. Young women of color are the most at risk when it comes to misdiagnosis of heart attack, stroke, and other life-threatening conditions.
Trans individuals represent another vulnerable group when it comes to diagnostic errors and improper medical treatment. Often, these individuals do not receive an adequate level of care, either due to individual practitioner prejudice or systemic discrimination that disproportionately disadvantages trans patients.