Diagnostic Errors are Leading Cause of Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

By Peter DePaolis

According to the British Medical Journal, diagnostic errors are the main source of medical malpractice lawsuits; however, little is being done to identify such errors and measure their effects.

A research team examined 350,000 medical malpractice allegations from 1986 to 2010. Incorrect, missed, or delayed diagnoses accounted for 29 percent of medical malpractice lawsuits; they accounted for 39 percent of malpractice-related deaths. The study suggests that 10 to 20 percent of deaths are from causes not diagnosed when the patient was alive. By the studies estimates, 40,000 to 80,000 Americans die from missed diagnoses every year.

Examples of diagnostic errors include:

  • mistaking an ectopic pregnancy for appendicitis
  • an aortic dissection for severe heartburn
  • a brainstem stroke for an episode of dizziness

“Diagnostic errors are the most common, the most costly, and the most deadly of all medical errors,” said David E. Newman-Toker, a neurologist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Consequences of Failure to Diagnose a Serious Medical Condition

Failure by a doctor to diagnose or treat a serious medical condition is considered medical malpractice. If a disease is treatable in its early stages, progression of the disease can mean increased medical bills, extended pain, and suffering, lost time from work, and even death, if the disease is at a stage too advanced to treat.

If you feel that you have been subject to medical malpractice, contact our attorneys today at (202) 659-5500, or visit our website to fill out our online form.

Koonz, McKenney, Johnson & DePaolis L.L.P.

Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia Injury Attorneys

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.