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Most people go to the doctor and expect a diagnosis and then help on recovering from their pain. However medical misdiagnosis and missed diagnosis has been on the rise. A missed or wrong diagnosis is not only frustrating for the patient but can put the patient at risk, cause disability and even death. The following story is an example of just how dangerous a missed diagnosis can be.

A law firm represented a woman with Stage IV (incurable) breast cancer. At trial, the lawyers demonstrated that the treating Doctor did not respond appropriately to the patient’s complaint of a lump on her breast. The Doctor advised that since the patient did not have a family history of breast cancer and was young, that the lump was just a cyst and was nothing to worry about. About ten months later, when the lump grew, the patient went to another Doctor who diagnosed breast cancer. The plaintiff’s expert in the field of oncology testified during trial that had the cancer been diagnosed ten months earlier, the patient would have been in either Stage I or II and would have had a good chance of survival.

So what can you do to protect yourself against misdiagnosis?

1. Find a good family doctor then stick with them.

Having a doctor that knows you well and has seen you over the course of several years is one way to help identify symptoms that are unusual or out of the ordinary for you.

2. Follow up on diagnosis tests.

Doctors are seeing more patients in the same amount of time. Sometimes they order diagnosis tests and don’t even review them. Make a follow up call to the office or check and see if your office has electronic records that you can review.

3. Get a second opinion.

If you feel that your concerns are being dismissed and that your condition is the same or worse, get a second opinion. Be sure to bring all your medical records and tests, tell the new doctor about any family history and every symptom you may be having.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) around 150,000 Americans are misdiagnosed per year, and one out of three of them die or are debilitated. The lawyers at Shapiro, Lewis, Appleton and Favaloro have compiled resources for patients and families who have suffered a missed or wrong diagnosis. Please click here for more information on missed or wrong diagnosis.

About Our Firm: We have offices in Virginia Beach, Hampton, and Norfolk, VA along with an office in Elizabeth City, NC. Our team of personal injury attorneys publish and edit articles on three Legal Examiner sites as a pro bono service to the general public.

One Comment

  1. Gravatar for Howard

    It's good to know there are steps "normal" people can take to protect themselves from common medical mistakes. It's a shame a second opinion isn't always an affordable option though.

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