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Misdiagnosis common in medical malpractice cases

Cancer is one of worst diseases that challenge many Americans, including those from Queens, every year. In New York state, for example, 2013 has seen more than 100,000 new cases of cancer. For this reason, accurate diagnosis of diseases and conditions is essential for saving patient lives from the complications and possible deaths of mistreated diseases. Unfortunately, cancer misdiagnosis does occur.

According to a recent study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, misdiagnosis is the most common reason given in medical malpractice lawsuits against primary care physicians. For example, a study of 550 malpractice lawsuits against these doctors in Massachusetts from 2005 to 2009 found that 190 included accusations of cancer misdiagnoses as compared to 108 claims of misdiagnosed heart disease, blood vessel disease, infection or strokes.

In addition, accusations of diagnostic errors included mistakes doctors make while rushing through physical exams, failing to make appropriate referrals to specialists and neglecting follow-up test results. One researcher noted that misdiagnoses is a genuine health-care problem.

A diagnosis recognizes the potential disease an individual has and the probable course it will take if left untreated. It is an important part of determining what kind of treatment and medications a patient will need to recover completely from the disease or live with it indefinitely with some acceptable quality of life. However, when a doctor misdiagnoses a patient's actual sickness, the wrong treatment may follow or the correct diagnosis may be delayed. Ultimately, if a cancer has been misdiagnosed, the patient can experience complications, worsened conditions or even death.

Misdiagnosis is certainly difficult for anyone when we consider the health-care costs and emotional tolls involved. However, legal remedies may be available to secure compensation for damages caused by physician error. Under such circumstances, a patient may wish to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Source: Boston Globe, "Missed diagnosis most common malpractice accusation," Deborah Kotz, Oct. 7, 2013

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