When we think about the medical field we often think of doctors and nurses helping people get better. Whether patients have suffered an injury or been hit with an illness or disease, we expect these medical professionals to provide competent treatment. Sadly, though, our optimism is often misplaced.
Studies estimate that between 40,000 and 80,000 individuals die each year as a direct result of errors in the diagnostic process. Anyone can be subjected to a misdiagnosis or a late diagnosis. Those who are suffering from a serious medical condition like cancer may be hit the hardest, as their chances of survival may be dramatically reduced as a result.
There are many reasons for diagnostic errors. One problem is that medical professionals are dealing with a high volume of patients, which can severely limit the amount of time a doctor or nurse spends with a patient. Additionally, there is often an absence of standardized diagnostic methods. This means that the process through which a diagnosis is made can vary greatly from hospital to hospital. Communications, too, can be poor in these fast-paced hospitals, which means that a diagnosis may be based on incomplete or inaccurate information.
Fortunately, new studies are seeking to better identify the causes of so many diagnostic errors. Hopefully the results of these studies will allow the medical field to implement changes that will drastically reduce or eliminate the number individuals killed by doctor mistakes. Until that happens, though, patients who are harmed by a failure to diagnose caused by negligence should consider taking legal action via a medical malpractice lawsuit. If successful on one of these claims, an individual may be able to recover compensation for his or her damages while at the same time shining a bright light on this ever-important issue.