Smith, Meier & Webb, LPA

More thoughts on diagnostic errors in medical malpractice litigation

In our previous post, we began speaking about diagnostic errors, noting that this category of errors is relatively resistant to improvement. Part of the reason for this, according to some experts, is that we do not have good ways to measure diagnostic errors, nor do we have well developed techniques for preventing them.

Diagnostic errors can take several forms, including missing a diagnosis despite the presence of symptoms, making an incorrect diagnosis, and delaying a diagnosis. There are a variety of reasons why diagnostic errors can occur. According to one study, the most common diagnostic errors include: problems ordering diagnostic tests for additional workup; errors related to medical history; physician examination performance errors; and failure to review documentation of patients' condition. 

As we've pointed out before, medical malpractice litigation is premised on the allegation that a physician failed to abide by an established standard of care and that this caused harm to the patient. Not every mistake a physician makes is going to constitute negligence worth litigating. In some cases, the harm will not be significant enough to justify filing suit. In other cases, there may not be unequivocal evidence than an error occurred. In yet other cases, the causation between the error and the patient's harm will be difficult to establish because of the circumstances of the case.

Patients who have been harmed by a physician should always work with an experienced attorney to ensure their case is thoroughly evaluated and that, if they do pursue litigation, they have zealous representation throughout the legal process

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