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When a misdiagnosis becomes medical malpractice

On Behalf of | Feb 26, 2020 | Medical Malpractice

Physicians and other health care workers have an ethical and legal obligation to provide all patients with a reasonable standard of care. Unfortunately, medical mistakes and oversights are all too common, whether due to negligence, poor judgment, lack of training or even faulty equipment. According to a recent John Hopkins Medicine study, medical error is the third most common cause of death in the United States. 

People often associate medical malpractice with surgical mistakes. However, the term may also include a wide range of actions, including failing to make an accurate, timely diagnosis. A faulty or delayed diagnosis that leads to injury or death is one of the top reasons that patients pursue malpractice claims. 

How misdiagnosis harms patients 

A misdiagnosis might occur when a doctor either fails to detect an existing condition or diagnoses a patient with the wrong condition. A failure to identify an underlying issue may lead to missed treatment opportunities during the early stages of a disease or injury. On the other hand, if a physician diagnoses a patient with a condition that they do not have, the patient may undergo unnecessary treatments, have significant side effects or even suffer lasting harm. 

Most common types of misdiagnosis 

In the U.S., an estimated 100,000 patients become permanently disabled or died due to misdiagnosis. Researchers at John Hopkins have found that three-fourths of all harmful or deadly diagnostic mistakes fall under three general categories: cancers (37.8%), infections (13.5%) and vascular issues (22.8%). Some of the specific conditions most frequently misdiagnosed include: 

  • Cancers: lung, breast, prostate, colorectal and skin 
  • Infections: sepsis, encephalitis, meningitis, pneumonia, spinal infection and endocarditis 
  • Vascular issues: stroke, heart attack, aortic aneurysm, aortic rupture and venous or arterial thromboembolism 

Malpractice claims in New Mexico 

When a doctor or other health care professional’s treatment or failure to treat a condition leads to injury, disability or death, the results may be emotionally and financially devastating. New Mexico law enables patients to seek needed compensation by filing a malpractice claim.