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Evaluating the potential for misdiagnosis

Because a misdiagnosis can be difficult to identify, New Mexico health officials may not have clear statistics about the frequency of such occurrences. In some cases, a misdiagnosis may not do any harm because the treatment selected by a physician still works for the actual problem in question. However, there are situations in which a misdiagnosis can have deadly consequences for the patient involved. As health care providers tackle this issue, it can be more difficult to identify than surgical errors like wrong-site surgeries or other medical errors.

Statistics from one medical liability insurance provider note that diagnostic errors were responsible for approximately one-sixth of its cases between 2010 and 2013. This was one of the top three claims issues, and it was the second most costly, causing nearly $50 million to be paid out over that period.

In one prominent case, a 15-year-old girl died because of internal bleeding in a recovery unit after her gallbladder was removed. She was treated with antibiotics for a kidney infection at first, but the actual issue at play was a condition related to the Epstein-Barr virus, which resulted in the erosion of platelets needed for clotting. Surgery was not an appropriate medical intervention, but the negative results on a blood test caused health care professionals to miss the true cause of problems. In many cases, patients and their loved ones suffer harm when there is a failure to diagnose a serious condition.

Although legal action might be appropriate for addressing the wrongful death of a loved one in case of a suspected misdiagnosis, a lawyer may be helpful for evaluating the supporting facts to determine whether such a claim has merit. In some cases, a lawyer may be able to negotiate a settlement with the relevant insurance providers and professionals.

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