Most medical malpractice claims arise from misdiagnoses, study finds

When an individual requires medical care, he or she will generally have to rely on the expertise of a medical professional to ensure a proper diagnosis is made. Unfortunately, physicians do not always make accurate assessments when faced with a patient's symptoms - the consequences of which can lead to even more severe medical issues and even death.

Recently, a study was published in BMJ Open that examined the most frequent causes of medical malpractice claims around the world. Based on the data, the researchers concluded that misdiagnoses led to the most malpractice suits. In total, diagnostic errors resulted in 26 to 63 percent of all of the malpractice claims studied.

In addition, these missed diagnoses often had serious consequences for the patients involved. The researchers found that in 15 to 48 percent of the cases involving misdiagnoses, the patients died as a result of the failure to properly diagnose their symptoms.

While the statistics are troubling, patients can take some action to protect themselves from missed diagnoses. A helpful first step is to be aware of the diseases that are most frequently misdiagnosed by physicians.

What are the most commonly misdiagnosed illnesses?

Based on a study published in the Journal of Family Practice, the five most frequently misdiagnosed illnesses are:

  • Infection.
  • Cancer.
  • Heat attack.
  • Pulmonary embolism.
  • Other cardiovascular disease.

The study published in BMJ Open confirmed that data, citing cancer and heart attacks as the most commonly misdiagnosed illnesses among adults. In addition, those researchers noted bone fractures, appendicitis and ectopic pregnancies were also commonly misidentified in adult patients. When it came to children, the researchers involved in the BMJ Open study identified cancer and meningitis as the diseases most often improperly diagnosed by physicians.

Patients would be wise to advocate for themselves whenever possible in the doctor's office. For instance, patients should not be hesitant to consult a physician when experiencing unusual symptoms. A patient suffering from a heart attack may experience unexpected symptoms at first, such as nausea. In such cases, promptly seeking medical attention could be life saving, as heart disease has been the number one cause of death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 600,000 people in the U.S. died of heart disease in 2011.

If you or a loved one has been affected by a misdiagnosis, consult with a skilled medical malpractice attorney to ensure your rights are protected.