Reducing your risk of a medical misdiagnosis

6931012_sWhen patients in Las Vegas seek medical care from a doctor, they expect to receive an accurate diagnosis that they can rely upon. However, this is often not what patients actually receive.  When a doctor mistakenly says that a patient suffers from one disease while the patient’s symptoms are really caused by another disease, a misdiagnosis has occurred.

Misdiagnosis is also a national problem. A Eugene, Oregon man was told that he suffered from a debilitating genetic disease without a cure called Charcot-Marie-Tooth. He endured surgeries and 13 years of wearing leg braces to stave off the progressive destruction of his muscles that doctors said was eminent. However, he discovered that he was misdiagnosed after seeking a second opinion from another doctor.

Severity of the problem

According to the National Center for Policy Analysis, medical misdiagnosis is the most common form of medical malpractice, occurring in 10 to 20 percent of all cases. However, it receives far less attention than drug errors and surgery on the wrong body part or wrong patient, both of which occur with less frequency.     A report noted that out of 583 diagnostic mistakes, 28 percent were life threatening or resulted in permanent disability or death.  Another study examined fatal diagnostic errors within US intensive care units and found that the number of deaths caused by these errors each year is similar to the 40,500 lives lost to breast cancer.

Doctors have known about the severity of the problem for many years. A 1991 Harvard study found that 14 percent of adverse events are caused by misdiagnosis, and that 75 percent of those errors involved negligence. A separate survey discovered that 96 percent of physicians believed that diagnostic errors are preventable, and 50 percent of those surveyed encountered a misdiagnosis at least once each month.

Patients can protect themselves

Even knowing the prevalence of the problem and how severe the effects may be for patients, many doctors are reluctant or unwilling to report these errors. Therefore, patients need to be ready to reduce their risk of misdiagnosis themselves.  Patients can take the following steps to ensure that they do not experience the effects of a misdiagnosis:

  • Be persistent. Make sure the doctor has done all they can to reduce or eliminate other possible diagnoses.
  • Request tests and other diagnostic tools that you feel are necessary.
  • Do online research and take the findings to a doctor.
  • Question everything the doctors say. Engaging in a back and forth discussion allows doctors to more thoroughly examine the evidence and they may catch errors on their own. 

Ultimately, patients should never rely solely on a doctor’s reputation because even good doctors make mistakes. Seek out a second opinion to ensure that all other diagnoses have been ruled out.  Those who have experienced the devastating results of doctor error of any kind should contact a medical malpractice attorney in Las Vegas to discuss their matter.