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Is a misdiagnosis the same as medical malpractice?

When most people think of medical malpractice, they might conjure images of a doctor amputating the wrong limb from a patient or prescribing the wrong medicine. Relatively few people know that a misdiagnosis is also considered medical malpractice. Misdiagnosis is defined as diagnosing a patient with the wrong disease or offering the diagnosis far too late as to allow time to enact a remedy.

Over the years, misdiagnosis has been characterized as those that are usually detected by some method through some form of definitive test. Sadly, many of those tests come in the form of an autopsy after the patient has already died. When one is discovered, it is usually called a clinically missed diagnosis.

A 2009 study conducted by a doctor working with the Cook County Hospital here in Chicago took a look at 583 physician-reported errors from across the country. There are some of the highlights of what that study discovered:

-- 4.5 percent of all physician reported misdiagnoses involved pulmonary embolism.

-- 4.5 percent involved a drug reaction or an overdose.

-- 3.9 percent involved lung cancer.

-- 3.3 percent involved colorectal cancer.

-- 3.1 percent involved acute coronary syndrome.

Improved testing and advances in medicine seem to have reduced the numbers of medical malpractice misdiagnoses. According to one expert, there are much fewer misdiagnoses for ectopic pregnancies today because modern medicine now has now made pregnancy testing much easier than in the past. Also there are fewer misdiagnoses of meningitis because most people have been vaccinated against that disease.

Source: Medpage Today, "Misdiagnosis: Can It Be Remedied?" Joyce Freidan, Aug. 15, 2014

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