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Researchers find misdiagnosis a huge, hidden threat

We all know that doctors are under pressure to see as many patients as they can, but when medical care providers are not thorough enough in checking what is wrong with their patients, they can miss the real problem. Sometimes, they can prescribe treatment for one condition, while completely missing a more serious condition. As a result, this undetected condition goes untreated and gets worse. Sometimes, the patient doesn't know about this condition until it has grown extremely serious and difficult to treat.

Two recent studies looked closely at these cases of misdiagnosis. A study published in the journal Diagnosis found that misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis was a factor in 34% of all medical malpractice claims involving a patient who died or suffered permanent disability. Researchers called on the federal government to provide more funding for research into misdiagnosis, saying it could save lives.

Another recent study looked at malpractice claims involving hospital emergency rooms. It found that 33% of all these claims involved diagnosis errors. The study, conducted by insurance company Coverys, found that the process of supplying a diagnosis was a factor in 52% of all these claims.

It's always difficult for plaintiffs to prevail in a medical malpractice claim. Misdiagnosis-based claims can be even more difficult.

First, the plaintiff must show that the defendant gave a bad diagnosis because its medical care fell below professional standards. To prove this, the plaintiff usually calls upon other doctors who can serve as expert witnesses and say that a careful professional would not have made the same mistake.

Next, the plaintiff has to show damages. This can be tricky in a misdiagnosis case, because the plaintiff needs to show that the misdiagnosis led to a worsening of the undetected condition. Again, the plaintiff usually relies on expert witnesses.

Because these cases are difficult, it is important to seek out help from an experienced medical malpractice attorney.

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