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You’ve Been Misdiagnosed. Now What?

When you are suffering discomfort or pain, or simply feeling as if something is ‘not right’, it can be reassuring to go the doctor, explain your symptoms, and have the appropriate testing or treatment prescribed.

We trust our medical providers to look out for our overall health and wellbeing, and we generally have confidence in their ability to put their knowledge and training to use in making us well.

Unfortunately, research has shown that this trust is sometimes misplaced. Incidences involving medical misdiagnosis have become increasingly common, and patients with serious medical conditions who have been misdiagnosed can end up not getting the lifesaving treatments they need to survive.

If you suspect you have suffered a medical misdiagnosis in a Rhode Island clinic or hospital, the following includes what you need to know about the types of conditions most commonly misdiagnosed, as well as legal options for dealing with the potentially serious ramifications.

Commonly Misdiagnosed Conditions

A recent Healthline report on medical misdiagnosis states that as many as 12 million Americans who visit the doctor complaining of various symptoms end up with a missed or incorrect diagnosis.

While the medical community defends itself against claims by citing the statistic that diagnostic errors occur only in five percent of all cases, that figure translates into an alarming one in 20 patients.

While some of these diagnostic errors center on incorrectly diagnosed common conditions such as urinary tract and upper respiratory infections, others center on more serious and even potentially fatal diseases and illnesses.

According to Everyday Health, an online digital health and wellness information provider, some of the most common misdiagnosed medical conditions include:

  • Depression, which often includes symptoms such as chronic fatigue, poor concentration, and sleep disturbances;
  • Fibromyalgia, a condition common among middle-aged women, which is often misdiagnosed as being a rheumatoid condition, lupus or chronic fatigue syndrome;
  • Thyroid disease, which can cause muscle weakness, fatigue, and weight fluctuations, which is commonly misdiagnosed as depression;
  • Lyme disease, a bacterial infection caused by a tick bite, can produce symptoms such as muscle and joint pain, fever, and stiffness. Patients often suffer symptoms of the disease for over a year before finally receiving a proper diagnosis; and
  • Celiac disease, with symptoms including gastrointestinal problems, joint pain, and headaches, is commonly misdiagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome. Eighty-three percent of people suffering from celiac disease are not diagnosed or are misdiagnosed with other conditions.

While any disease or illness that is improperly diagnosed can result in serious consequences to the patient’s health, for certain medical conditions, a medical misdiagnosis can prove fatal. Life-threatening conditions that are commonly misdiagnosed include:

  • Cancer: An ABC news report on cancer misdiagnosis quotes studies estimating that as many as one in 71 cases is misdiagnosed, and one in five cases was incorrectly classified.
  • Heart attacks: Due to a wide variety of symptoms, heart attacks are some of the most commonly misdiagnosed medical conditions, particularly in women who often do not experience the classic symptom of chest pain.
  • Stroke: A National Public Radio report on stroke misdiagnosis cites studies indicating that strokes are commonly misdiagnosed among women, minorities, and young people, whose symptoms are often mistakenly attributed to episodes of vertigo, migraine headaches, or as being caused by intoxication.
  • Aortic dissection, or tear in the wall of the main artery running to the heart: While this condition needs to be treated quickly or it can be fatal, it is estimated that a third of patients suffering aortic dissection are misdiagnosed.
  • Pulmonary embolism, which is caused by a blood clot in the main artery going to the lungs: With symptoms including chest pain, shortness of breath, fainting, and anxiety, this life-threatening condition is misdiagnosed in roughly 30 percent of patients.

Why Misdiagnoses Occur

It is estimated that misdiagnoses are responsible for between 40,000 to 80,000 otherwise preventable deaths each year.

According to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), medical diagnostic errors typically center on missed or delayed diagnosis and incorrect diagnosis of symptoms. The most common reasons for medical misdiagnosis include:

  • Lack of direct communication between doctor and patient;
  • Inadequate or incomplete patient medical histories;
  • Failure by doctors and nursing staff to update or add appropriate notes to patient files;
  • Failure by medical staff to properly review the patient’s medical file;
  • Lack of time spent in physically examining the patient;
  • Failure to recognize or record presenting symptoms;
  • Lack of additional testing or diagnostic exams; and
  • Failure to provide adequate follow up care.

Any one of these types of errors or lapses in the quality of care provided by a medical provider or their staff can end up meaning delays for the patient in getting the lifesaving care they need.

The repercussions of medical diagnostic errors can range from prolonged suffering for the patient to permanent and irreversible damage and loss of life. In cases involving medical misdiagnosis, the best way to protect both yourself and your loved ones is through our Providence medical malpractice lawyers.

Legal Options after a Misdiagnosis

Legal options are available for people who have been injured or suffered losses as the result of a medical misdiagnosis. A medical malpractice case is often the best way to hold negligent medical providers accountable for their mistakes while ensuring that patients get the compensation they deserve for their damages.

In pursuing a Providence, RI medical malpractice case, the legal basis for the claim is the doctor or medical staff’s negligence in providing the standard of care you would reasonably expect to receive from a medical provider.

There are several steps to filing a successful medical malpractice claim, which includes obtaining full copies of all medical records relating to the patient and their condition, as well as obtaining the testimony of the providers themselves. By thoroughly reviewing this evidence, it can often be shown that a medical provider failed to use the knowledge, training, and resources they possessed that could have detected the underlying illness, stopped its progression and prevented the damages suffered by the patient.

Contact Our Experienced Providence, RI Medical Malpractice Lawyers

If you or a loved one has suffered a medical misdiagnosis, contact our experienced Providence, Rhode Island medical malpractice lawyers today. At Gemma Law Associates, Inc., we know the serious repercussions that can result from medical diagnostic errors, and provide aggressive legal representation to hold responsible parties accountable.

Get the legal assistance you deserve by calling our Providence medical malpractice attorneys today at (800) 577-5188 to arrange a free consultation.

  • Mark Gemma

    Mark Gemma is a Rhode Island personal injury lawyer, and is a Principal of Gemma Law Associates, Inc. With 25 years of legal experience, Mark is nationally recognized for his legal ethics, receiving an AV Peer Review Rating from Martindale-Hubbell in 2009. Some of his legal specialties include auto accidents, wrongful death, and slip and fall cases. You can reach him at mark@gemmalaw.com.

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