When you suddenly have trouble sleeping, a rash that won't go away or a cough bad enough to wake you up at night, your doctor is your first line of medical defense. You go to see a physician to discover the cause of your symptoms and to connect with treatment to alleviate them. Ideally, that treatment will resolve the underlying cause of the cough, rash or sleep disturbance.
Your doctor has years of training that can help them sort through the potential causes of various symptoms and arrive at a realistic and appropriate diagnosis. Sadly, patients who put full faith in their doctor's diagnostic capability can sometimes wind up suffering severe medical consequences when their doctor makes a mistake. How common are diagnostic errors in modern medicine?
Modern physicians have the ability to order imaging tests that can look at your brain or your musculature. They can genetically sequence biopsied tissue and culture bodily fluids to determine the cause of an infection. There are more diagnostic tools available now than ever before in the history of human medicine.
Unfortunately, many doctors still ignore the symptoms that their patients report or jump to conclusions about what causes those symptoms despite having access to such powerful diagnostic tools. When doctors don't diagnose someone or reach the wrong conclusion, that patient may receive the wrong treatment or no treatment at all.
Every year, roughly twelve million people suffer the consequences of a diagnostic mistake and between 40,000 and 80000 people will die because a doctor did not diagnose them correctly.
When a doctor fails in their most basic obligation to analyze your symptoms and diagnosis your condition, they can cause real damage by treating you improperly or by discharging you without the necessary care.
Reviewing your medical record and speaking with the outside physician for an accurate diagnosis can help. If it is clear that a doctor following best practices would have diagnosed you quickly, you may have grounds to bring a medical malpractice claim against the physician or facility.
Recognizing diagnostic failure as a common form of medical malpractice is the first step toward fighting back against it.