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Biopsy mix-ups can result in a failure to diagnose

Many readers in Houston, Texas undergo tests at hospitals every year. They can be stressful, especially when patients are waiting to find out whether they have a serious disease. Some are rushed with a feeling of relief when they receive test results that indicate good news. Others end up facing a disappointing diagnosis. However, as a new study suggests, the patients in both situations may have received a misdiagnosis, due to a mix-up in the test results.

The study looked at thousands of prostate biopsies in order to determine the frequency of errors where patients' results were swapped or contaminated. According to the study, about five in 1,000 patients had an error in their samples. Researchers also determined that this number only represented about half of the actual occurrences.

Experts agree that there are many opportunities for error to occur when biopsies are performed. There are many steps involved, such as the transportation of the biopsy from the patient to the lab and then to a pathologist. Along each step, errors can occur and mix-ups are possible. The result can have a severe negative impact on patients. Some may be wrongly diagnosed resulting in the incorrect procedure performed on them, ultimately causing their worsened condition. Others might suffer from a failure to diagnose a serious condition where the results could be fatal.

It is important to note that when such medical negligence occurs, the patients involved may be able to bring a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital and medical professionals involved. These medical professionals do not just include doctors, but other hospital employees as well. This is true under the doctrine of respondeat superior, which holds that an employer can be found liable for its employees' negligent acts. Respondeat superior helps ensure that an injured person is compensated by the financially responsible party.

Source: Men's Health, "Could your doctor be wrong about this?," Mandy Oaklander, Feb. 4, 2013

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