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Texas medical malpractice: misdiagnosis can be deadly

Imagine the nightmare of presenting to the doctor with symptoms indicating that something is wrong medically, receiving a diagnosis and being treated for that illness or injury, only to learn later that the diagnosis was wrong
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    December 14, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Imagine the nightmare of presenting to the doctor or hospital with distressing symptoms indicating that something is wrong medically, receiving a diagnosis and being treated for that illness or injury, only to learn later that the diagnosis was wrong -- especially if it has become too late to properly treat the true problem or if the actual disease has progressed to a point of permanent damage.

Even worse, imagine this scenario when the patient actually dies from the actual disease or injury and could have been saved with the right diagnosis.

By the numbers

While we all would like to believe this does not happen often in our country, according to The Wall Street Journal, Johns Hopkins University researchers have found that "diagnostic problems" cause "permanent damage or death" for at least 160,000 people annually. Their research also shows that diagnostic problems are more common than as well as "more likely to harm patients" than other medical mistakes.

The Wall Street Journal also reports that Johns Hopkins found that diagnostic problems are the top reason for medical malpractice lawsuits nationally, at more than one-third of such claims from 1986 to 2010.

Diagnostic problems range from misdiagnosing a medical problem to failing to make any diagnosis when a diagnosable problem is present. Such a medical mistake can involve failing to order the appropriate test under the circumstances, failing to follow up or failing to read test results or symptoms correctly.

Texas health care liability claim

In Texas, a medical malpractice lawsuit for injury caused by misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose is a type of "health care liability claim" established by state statute. Such a claim is one against a doctor or other health care provider for "treatment, lack of treatment, or other claimed departure from accepted standards of medical care, or health care, or safety or professional or administrative services directly related to health care, which proximately results in injury to or death of a claimant, whether the claimant's claim or cause of action sounds in tort or contract."

Efforts to combat misdiagnosis

The Wall Street Journal article cites many current efforts in the medical profession to reduce the rates of misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose. Most of these ideas relate to the use of technology and electronic monitoring either to comb medical records for missed follow-up opportunities, or to affirmatively suggest diagnoses to doctors or prompt their further actions. In addition, the new federal health care law imposes some new quality controls that may help, and medical schools are taking a fresh look at how doctors are trained in diagnostics.

Legal counsel important

While it is hoped that injury and death from misdiagnosis will decrease with these new efforts, if you or a loved one experiences harm from a misdiagnosis or from the failure to diagnose a medical problem, seek the advice of an experienced medical malpractice attorney as early as possible. Texas health care liability claims are extremely complex and require that specific steps be taken within certain time periods. A knowledgeable Texas personal injury lawyer can analyze your situation and advise you of your options.

Article provided by Hartley Hampton, P.C.
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