Godfrey, Leibsle, Blackbourn & Howarth, S.C.
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The role of misdiagnoses in medical malpractice

Not long ago, people in Wisconsin and across the world were engrossed with the Ebola virus — an issue that came very close to home for Americans who watched on the news as several people within their borders began to suffer from the virus. Perhaps most strikingly is the story of the man who sought treatment for the virus at an emergency room, but was sent home with antibiotics as a result of a misdiagnosis. Unfortunately, this form of medical malpractice happens frequently, but some say that it often does not receive the attention that it deserves. A study set to publish soon in the U.S. Institute of Medicine could hopefully provide some insight into this prevalent issue.

Some reports indicate that as many as 15 percent of diagnoses made by doctors are incorrect. Despite this relatively large number — and the harm that could come from such a mistake — some professionals feel that misdiagnoses receive relatively little attention. Some argue that this is because these instances are much more difficult to identify and study as compared to an incorrect prescription where an error is relatively easily tracked.

There are a variety of different causes of a misdiagnosis. For example, they could be caused by faulty diagnostic equipment. Additionally, if diagnosing physicians to do not have access to test results, they may make decisions without having all the relevant information. However, many of these mistakes occur due to physicians’ bias. For example, some doctors personal feelings toward their patients may affect their judgment.

It is clear that the issues of misdiagnoses deserves more attention. In the case of the misdiagnosed Ebola patient, not only was his treatment delayed, but others could have contracted the virus as well. Victims of medical malpractice — including family members of the deceased — have rights in Wisconsin. A lawsuit could not only result in an award of damages, but could also protect future patients.

Source: startribune.com, “When doctors get it wrong: Misdiagnoses are getting a closer look“, Jeremy Olson, Aug. 30, 2015

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