When people in Illinois go to the doctor or the hospital, they may expect their illness to be detected and treated accurately. Unfortunately, however, around 40,000 to 80,000 people each year may lose their lives due to mistaken diagnosis or the failure to diagnose deadly conditions. In an analysis of over 11,000 medical malpractice claims filed after a serious medical error, researchers found that some types of misdiagnosis were both more common and more dangerous. The most significant errors were linked to the “big three” conditions, the researchers said: infection, cancer or vascular issues.
Because most cancers are progressive diseases in which the time of treatment can have a significant effect on the outcome, failure to diagnose cancer was most likely to be deadly. Over 33% of misdiagnoses related to cancer in the study led to death or permanent disability. the same was true for 22% of the misdiagnosed vascular concerns and 13.5% of the infections. Even within these larger categories, certain specific conditions were the most likely to be linked to medical errors. Sepsis, strokes and lung cancer were often misdiagnosed, resulting in serious issues for the patient. Other missed illnesses included pneumonia, blood clots and prostate cancer.
The researchers said that the errors were most likely to happen when people visited their doctors on an outpatient basis or were experiencing a sudden medical emergency. The cancer diagnoses were most often missed at outpatient doctor visits, with physicians diagnosing their patients with less serious issues only for their cancer to spread before it was eventually diagnosed.
In many cases, the patients’ conditions could have been correctly diagnosed with more attention, clinical judgment and adequate testing, the researchers noted. People who have suffered a worsened health condition due to doctor error or a missed diagnosis may consult with a medical malpractice attorney about the potential to seek compensation.