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Misdiagnosis may lead to patient harm

As many New York residents know, many patients are injured or subjected to improper treatment yearly from medical errors that range from prescribing the wrong medication to wrong-site surgery. One medical liability insurance company found that in a three-year period, 313 claims were due to diagnostic error out of the 2,000 that were reviewed. It resulted in a cost to the company of $47.2 million in payouts and investigation expenses.

The U.S. Institute for Medicine intends to present a report about misdiagnosis, a category missing from the 1999 report, even though it estimated the death of 98,000 individuals yearly that were caused by medical misdiagnosis. A physician has developed a training program so others might spot misdiagnosis, identify the cause and learn.

Some medical errors may relate to faulty equipment that gives incorrect readings. Poor record keeping and communication may also contribute to medical errors. A society formed to improve medical diagnoses states that cognitive mistakes may be part of the problem. When a physician stands by an initial diagnosis and ignores symptoms or changes that suggest something else, it may impede ruling out other causes.

One patient died due to medical error, even though the test that was used to diagnose her was known to have false positive results. She was later diagnosed with gallbladder problems and was sent to surgery to have her gallbladder removed. She actually suffered from the Epstein-Barr virus, which may have contributed to her death since she died with internal bleeding, a side effect of the virus.

An individual who has been a victim of medical error such as cancer misdiagnosis may wish to consult with an attorney. Legal counsel may review the patient's records and consult with experts to determine if such failure could be considered medical malpractice.

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