Misdiagnosis Lawyers Serving Spartanburg and Greenville, SC

David Newman Toker of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine calls medical misdiagnosis “the hidden part of the iceberg of medical errors.” A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) estimates that delayed, missed or incorrect diagnoses occur in 10 to 20 percent of medical cases each year.  Unfortunately, many misdiagnoses result from sheer negligence.

If you suspect that a diagnostic error at a medical facility in Spartanburg, Greenville or elsewhere in Upstate South Carolina has caused you or a loved one to suffer injury, you should discuss your case immediately with the medical malpractice lawyers of Harrison, White, Smith & Coggins, P.C. Our law firm believes that these cases should be thoroughly investigated, and any potential legal claims should be fully pursued. Contact us today for a free consultation. 

Understanding Diagnostic Errors

As many as 40,500 U.S. hospital patients die each year from diagnostic flaws, or roughly the same number that die annually from breast cancer.

This is hardly a new problem. A classic 1991 Harvard study found that misdiagnosis accounted for 14 percent of medical care injuries — a rate that essentially has not changed over the past 20 to 30 years despite major advances in technology. This suggests that the latest and greatest innovations do not compensate for the role of human error in a misdiagnosis.

Types of Misdiagnoses

A diagnostic error typically falls into one of the following categories: 

  • False positive — A physician diagnoses a disease that the patient does not actually suffer from.
  • False negative A patient has a disease, but the doctor does not diagnose it.
  • Equivocal results — Test results may indicate multiple possible causes. In turn, the doctor’s interpretation is inconclusive, and no diagnosis is made. Failure to follow up with additional tests to rule out other causes may constitute negligence.

Commonly Misdiagnosed Conditions

Research indicates that certain conditions tend to be more commonly misdiagnosed than others, including:

  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Drug reactions or overdose
  • Cancer
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack/heart failure
  • Infections
  • Pneumonia
  • Rheumatic conditions (such as lupus and fibromyalgia)
  • Ectopic pregnancy (tubal pregnancy)
  • Lyme disease and other uncommon diseases.

Why Misdiagnoses Occur in South Carolina

According to some experts, the prevalence of misdiagnoses is due to systemic problems in the U.S. healthcare system, including the growing complexity of modern medicine, time pressures on doctors and the overuse of and overreliance on technology.

Others believe that the flawed thought processes of doctors — overconfidence and an inability to embrace uncertainty —also may contribute to misdiagnoses.

Much research focuses on the specific medical processes that might break down during the course of treatment. According to a recent study published in JAMA, mistakes that lead to a misdiagnosis commonly occur during:

  • Patient-practitioner clinical encounters — Failing to thoroughly review a patient’s medical history or consider a patient’s lifestyle and occupation as they relate to risk factors for certain conditions could result in a misdiagnosis. The actual physical examination of the patient could also be inadequate. 
  • Follow-up and tracking of diagnostic information — When diagnostic tests are performed on a patient, but they are not followed-up on or communicated to the patient, a misdiagnosis can occur. Of course, if the tests are never ordered, they cannot be used to make a diagnosis. 
  • Interpretation of diagnostic tests — A misdiagnosis may result if testing is performed, but the results are erroneously interpreted. 
  • Referrals — A referral breakdown could occur if a patient who should be seen by a specialist is not, or if there is poor communication between the referring physician and the specialist.

Contact Our Upstate South Carolina Medical Malpractice Attorneys

To qualify as malpractice, a diagnosis must be shown to be the result of negligence. In other words, would a reasonably careful physician, in the same situation, have made a correct diagnosis? If care is shown to be sub-standard, and your injuries are shown to be a direct result of the negligent care, a claim may be pursued against the doctor, hospital, nurse or other healthcare professional to whom your well-being was entrusted.

The medical malpractice attorneys of Harrison, White, Smith & Coggins, P.C., will conduct a thorough investigation of your claim, determine whether negligence plausibly occurred and explain your legal options. Contact us today to discuss your case.

Sources / More Information

Johns Hopkins Patient Safety Team Finds Diagnostic “Fatal Flaws” In The ICU May Account For As Many Annual Deaths As Breast Cancer, Johns Hopkins Medicine
The New Focus Of Patient Safety Experts, Johns Hopkins Medicine
Doctors’ Diagnostic Errors Are Often Not Mentioned But Can Take A Serious Toll, Kaiser Health News
The Nature of Adverse Events in Hospitalized Patients, The New England Journal of Medicine
Diagnostic Error in Medicine, JAMA Internal Medicine
Types and Origins of Diagnostic Errors in Primary Care Settings, JAMA Internal Medicine
Medical Misdiagnosis in America 2008: A Persistent Problem with a Promising Solution, Premerus