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Misdiagnosis linked to up to 80,000 deaths each year

As many as 80,000 people die in Texas and around the country each year and up to 160,000 more suffer harm because of a missed or late health care diagnosis. This was the conclusion reached by researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine after they studied 11,000 medical malpractice cases. The results of the study were published online in July 2019 in the medical journal Diagnosis.

Almost 70% of the patients who died or were left permanently disabled due to a late or missed diagnosis suffered from cancer, vascular disease or some sort of infection. When researchers studied these malpractice cases more closely, they discovered that the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions were lung cancer, sepsis and strokes. Other conditions that were frequently misdiagnosed were skin, breast and prostate cancer; pneumonia; meningitis; heart attacks and blood clots in the lungs and arms.

The researchers found that diagnostic mistakes are most often caused by errors of judgement and usually take place in emergency rooms or outpatient settings. Steps that could be taken to reduce doctor errors include more rigorous training, improved communication between health care team members, calling on specialists earlier in the treatment cycle and making better use of the latest diagnostic technology.

To prevail in a medical malpractice lawsuit, the plaintiff must convince the jury that their injury, loss or damage was directly caused by a medical mistake. This can be challenging as doctors could argue that the patient involved was already sick. Personal injury attorneys with experience in this area may call on experts to refute this argument. Specialists might scrutinize medical records to identify mistakes or lapses in judgement, and they may also explain to juries how patient outcomes are usually improved when an accurate diagnosis is made in a timely manner.

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