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Doctors and lawsuits: 3 common medical malpractice scenarios

Not surprisingly, failure to diagnose topped the list in a recent survey of doctors on reasons why they get sued.

After all, proper diagnosis is crucial – especially if cancer is involved. Yet diagnostic errors, including delayed diagnoses, are remarkably common.

In this post, we will take note of the results of the recent doctor survey on lawsuits. But we will also continue to keep asking the question: Why are there so many errors?

Not enough time with patients

Nationally, the cumulative number of diagnostic errors is astoundingly high. As we reported in our October 13 post last year, mistakes in the diagnostic process affect upwards of 12 million patients every year.

One problem of course is that there are so many complex medical interventions that are now possible. But it isn’t complexity per se that leads to diagnostic errors. Often it is poor communication among the various medical professionals involved that is the culprit.

For example, a test result may not get communicated from a specialist to the family doctor. And the family doctor may not have followed up to find out what the specialist found.

This may well have happened because doctors are under time pressure to see so many patients in such short amounts of time.

Survey results

The website Medscape surveyed 4000 doctors last year on reasons why they get sued. Failure to diagnose led the list at 31 percent.

The second most common response, at 31 percent, was an abnormal injury experienced by a patient. In third place was failure to provide proper treatment, at 12 percent.

Given these figures, it seems fair to say that the failure to diagnose percentage could very well have been higher. After all, the underlying reason for an abnormal injury is often a wrong or delayed diagnosis.

Similarly, a wrong or delayed diagnosis could be considered failure to provide proper treatment.

Taking action after injury

If someone in your family has been harmed by a missed or delayed diagnosis, you may be struggling with how to respond. Talking with a knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney can help you understand your legal options.