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Diagnostic errors can lead to potentially fatal consequences

When a patient brings health-related concerns to his or her physician, there is a unique trust present in that interaction. The patient trusts that the physician will exercise his or her expertise in such a way that any questions will either be properly answered or referred to a specialist who can answer them. When physicians fail to exercise their expertise in accordance with professional standards of care and patients suffer from those physicians' failure to diagnose their conditions, trust between patients and their doctors can shatter.

When patients are given adequate information about their conditions, they can approach any given treatment plan in an educated manner. Every potential treatment option can be effectively weighed against all others. When conditions go either undetected or misdiagnosed as alternative conditions, patients will either fail to engage in treatment or will choose options that are not correctly tailored for their particular health concerns.

Sometimes, a failure to diagnose a given condition does not result in severe consequences. But far too often, physicians fail to properly diagnose cancer, heart defects, autoimmune disorders and other debilitating or life threatening conditions. When this occurs, the conditions can progress either slowly or rapidly without proper treatment and patients are left without the best chances possible to recover and survive.

According to recent data, roughly 10 to 20 percent of cases involve some sort of diagnostic error. This staggering statistic illustrates that potentially fatal diagnostic errors occur more frequently than most patients probably realize. Though negligent physicians may be held accountable for the harm they cause, ideally patients will avoid harm in the first place. If you have a health concern and believe that your doctor may not be responding as urgently and thoroughly as is necessary, please seek a second opinion and the advice of an experienced attorney when appropriate.

Source: Jackson Free Press, "Doctors' Diagnostic Errors Are Often Not Mentioned But Can Take A Serious Toll," Sandra G. Boodman, May 10, 2013

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