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Study: diagnostic errors are common and deadly

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Medical diagnostic errors, such as the failure to diagnose a disease or condition or reaching an incorrect diagnosis, are a very serious type of medical malpractice. Diagnostic errors can lead to serious injuries and even death, and unfortunately this happens more than many New Jersey residents may be aware.

A recent study found that diagnostic errors are a leading cause of medical malpractice, and that up to 20 percent of deaths are actually caused by conditions or illnesses that were not diagnosed when the patient was alive. In about half of these cases, the conditions would have been treatable if diagnosed.

The study, performed by researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, involved 25 years' worth of medical malpractice payments. The researchers found that 29 percent of successful malpractice claims stemmed from delayed, missed or entirely incorrect diagnoses. Forty-one percent of these diagnostic error cases resulted in death.

While diagnostic errors are a very dangerous form of medical malpractice, the researchers also identified several other frequent causes of medical malpractice. Just behind diagnostic errors were treatment errors, as the cause of 27 percent of successful malpractice claims. Surgical mishaps were the third most common.

Although the study did not involve any analysis of why diagnostic errors are so widespread, the researchers did suggest that part of the problem may be the fact that there is not much being done in the field to identify or learn from diagnostic errors.

Those who have been harmed by diagnostic errors do have a right to pursue legal recourse in order to obtain compensation and hold the negligent doctors or hospitals accountable. However, these cases are generally very complex and it is wise for victims to seek legal counsel.

Source: Washington Post, "Diagnostic errors are leading cause of successful malpractice claims," David Brown, April 22, 2013

‚óŹ Our law firm in New Jersey provides legal representation for those harmed by diagnostic errors as well as other types of medical malpractice.

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