How serious is the U.S. medical malpractice crisis? In 1999, the Institute of Medicine reported that up to 98,000 people a year die in the U.S. because of medical malpractice. Almost a decade ago, the Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law and Ethics found the number of malpractice-related deaths surpasses 195,000 annually. In 2010, the Office of Inspector General for Health and Human Services said medicinal malpractice contributes to 180,000 fatalities a year. And a 2013 study in the Journal of Patient Safety says that every year in the U.S., between 210,000 and 440,000 patients suffer some type of preventable medical malpractice that contributes to death.

When a doctor removes the wrong kidney or amputates the wrong leg, everyone understands that it’s malpractice, but most medicinal malpractice incidents are far less sensational. Every year, for example, about twelve million adults in the U.S. are misdiagnosed in doctors’ offices and medicinal clinics. A study conducted in 2013 by researchers at Johns Hopkins University indicates that cancer, heart disease, and meningitis are now the most frequently misdiagnosed medical conditions in the U.S. “Misdiagnosis” can actually refer to several situations, such as when a diagnosis was completely missed, a diagnosis was inaccurate, or a diagnosis was delayed.

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Arriving at the definitive diagnosis of a medical condition, even a well-known condition like heart disease or kidney disease, is not always easy for a doctor. When the symptoms of a medical condition emerge slowly over a period of months or years, a diagnosis of that condition may sometimes be inaccurate even if no medical negligence or malpractice took place. For a medicinal malpractice claim alleging a misdiagnosis to prevail, the claim must be verified with irrefutable evidence that the signs of a disease were missed by the doctor or were not properly followed up.

WHAT IS THE KEY LEGAL QUESTION IN MISDIAGNOSIS CASES?

If the delay or the failure to diagnose a disease has resulted in injury or illness above and beyond that which would have resulted from a timely diagnosis, a medical professional may be held liable for medical malpractice. The key legal question is: What diagnosis would a reasonably prudent doctor, in a similar situation, have rendered? Failing to diagnose or misdiagnosing a serious medicinal condition and ordering the wrong treatment can cause even more harm to a sick patient and may become the basis for a medical malpractice claim.

Why is misdiagnosis so rampant in the healthcare system? Most doctors now have less time to spend with each patient than they had in the past, especially in busy, time-pressured outpatient clinics. Many hospital and clinic settings are routinely chaotic, and many medicinal facilities are unable to hire the additional staff that could allow doctors to focus more effectively. Researchers have also found that problems with gathering or interpreting information related to a patient’s medical history play a big role in misdiagnosis. And of course, some doctors are sometimes simply careless or negligent.

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In diagnosing medical conditions, the most common negligence happens when a doctor “dismisses” a patient’s symptoms as temporary, negligible, or unworthy of treatment. The unwarranted, negligent dismissal of a patient’s symptoms may lead quickly to a deteriorating medicinal condition and to further harm or injury. When the problem is a misdiagnosis rather than a failure to diagnose, improper treatment is the typical result, sometimes leading to the wrong drugs being prescribed or the wrong procedures being conducted. Proper treatment may be substantially delayed, and that can mean serious or even debilitating complications or injuries.

WHERE CAN VICTIMS OF MEDICAL MALPRACTICE TURN?

With almost any disease, an early and precise diagnosis is absolutely imperative. If you are diagnosed with a condition that you do not actually have, or if a doctor fails to detect a serious underlying medical condition – either way – you could be seriously harmed. In the greater Chicago area, if you have been injured or if you believe that you have been injured because of the misdiagnosis of a medical condition, act at once to protect yourself, and discuss your case as quickly as possible with experienced Chicago medical malpractice attorney Joseph M. Dooley.

A successful medical malpractice claim must be supported by clear evidence that the indications of a disease or medical condition were missed by the doctor or were improperly evaluated. If you have been victimized by medicinal malpractice because of a misdiagnosis or a failure to diagnose, you are entitled by law to full compensation for all past, present, and future medicinal treatment and rehabilitation related to the misdiagnosis, all lost wages including loss of future earning capacity, disfigurement, past and future pain and suffering, and loss of the enjoyment of life. However, the word “entitled” makes the legal process sound somewhat easier than it actually is.

WHAT DOES IT TAKE FOR A MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CLAIM TO PREVAIL?

To win the compensation that is rightfully yours as a victim of medical malpractice, you have to prove that you were injured because a healthcare professional was negligent. It can be tough to prove misdiagnosis in cases where the illness presented no symptoms or in cases where those symptoms may be indicative of several different conditions. Medical malpractice happens when your doctor misses the signs of a disease or condition that other doctors – looking at precisely the same information – would have recognized and acted on. If you file a medicinal malpractice lawsuit, you’ll have to prove two points with an attorney’s help:

  • Your doctor failed to diagnose your condition and overlooked what other doctors would have heeded.
  • Your medical condition has now deteriorated as a direct result of the negligent misdiagnosis.

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When you are twice a victim – first the victim of a disease and then a victim of medical malpractice – you need to take your case to an attorney who can evaluate the facts, give you candid legal advice, and explain your legal rights, options, and alternatives. If you or someone you love has become a victim of medicinal malpractice because of a misdiagnosis in the Chicago area, take the first step and discuss your case with experienced Chicago medicinal malpractice attorney Joseph M. Dooley as quickly as possible. Email him at jmd@josephdooleylaw.com or call 312-236-7282 after any medical malpractice incident in the greater Chicago area.