Cases of Misdiagnosis and Failure to Diagnose

Errors in diagnosis are perhaps the most common form of medical malpractice. As many as fifteen percent of all medical diagnoses turn out to be wrong.1 Of course some of these mistaken diagnoses are subsequently corrected and not all of these mistaken diagnoses result in medical malpractice injuries, but many of them do.

Errors in diagnosis can be divided into two categories: errors where one malady is mistaken for another and errors where the pathology is completely missed. The first kind of mistake is generally referred to as a “misdiagnosis” and the latter kind of mistake is generally referred to as a “failure to diagnose” case, although many of the professionals who study medical error consider it a distinction without a difference.

There is no common set of facts or circumstances that underlies all cases of medical malpractice in diagnosis. In some cases, the error in diagnosis may be made because of poor communication on the doctor’s part. Doctors with poor communication skills are more likely to have medical malpractice claims brought against them for errors in diagnosis.2 But doctors with superb communication and interpersonal skills are also prone to make errors in diagnosis.

Doctor fatigue can also play a part in diagnostic error medical malpractice cases. According to a recent study, by the end of an eight-hour workday, radiologists were much more likely to make a mistaken diagnosis in reading x-rays.3 In fact, by the end of an eight-hour workday, radiologists made a mistake in reviewing five percent of all standard x-rays.

Very often medical malpractice in diagnosis involves either incompetence or incomplete information. For example, a doctor might not be qualified to assess the medical imaging or pathology reports that he receives. Or a doctor might make a diagnosis without probing your medical history or reviewing correspondence that has been sent by specialists.

If you believe that you have been injured as a result of a doctor’s misdiagnosis or a doctor’s failure to diagnose, call or email the Boston medical malpractice lawyers at The Law Office of Alan H. Crede, P.C.

To learn about errors of diagnose that result of a reduction of a patient’s chances of survival, please visit our “Medical Malpractice: Loss of Chance” page.

1Jerome Groopman, How Doctors Think (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2007).
2Levinson W, et al. “Physician-Patient Communication: The Relationship with Malpractice Claims Among Primary Care Physicians and Surgeons“. JAMA 277(7):553-559 (1997).
3Krupinski EA, Berbaum KS, Caldwell RT, Schartz KM, Kim J “Long Radiology Workdays Reduce Detection And Accommodation Accuracy“. J Am Coll Radiol. 7(9):698-704 (2010).