Doctors have some of the brightest minds in our communities, but no one is perfect. Like the best of us, medical professionals do make mistakes, even in their everyday practices.
Unlike the rest of us, though, when doctors make basic mistakes, the consequences can be deadly. That’s true whether they are in the operating room, holding a prescription pad, or reading your test results. It’s even true when you walk in for your very first meeting.
Preliminary diagnoses aren’t always an exact science. When a doctor tries to figure out what’s wrong with you, there’s as much educated guesswork involved as there is medical precision.
In many cases, an accurate diagnosis comes down to whether the doctors are carefully listening to what you tell them, running the right tests, and remembering all the right red flags.
It isn’t uncommon for patients to walk in with a flu diagnosis, or even the common cold, only to learn later that they had something much worse — and by then, precious hours for early treatment have already slipped by.
MSN recently reported that doctors overlook the early signs of stroke in tens of thousands of cases in the U.S. every year. The symptoms can be ambiguous, and doctors are quick to dismiss the possibility of stroke in patients who don’t seem like “the type” to have a stroke. Instead, these patients are sent home with diagnoses of migraine, vertigo, intoxication, anxiety, or headache syndromes. The reality is that anyone can have a stroke, and symptoms in any patient should be treated with comprehensive urgency.
Despite the fact that drug overdoses are at an all-time high in this country, too many Emergency Rooms and physicians fail to fully investigate the possibility that a patient is overdosing on drugs. Here again, the idea that a particular patient doesn’t look like “the type” is a common problem. Doctors may also be unfamiliar with the various kinds of drug overdose, particularly in younger patients or with newer methods of administration.
While there is some controversy about the prevalence of Lyme disease in this country, it is a fact that many confirmed cases were originally misdiagnosed, often as a bacterial infection or the flu. Doctors know that Lyme disease can occur even without a visible rash, but many still dismiss the possibility when they can’t find a rash on the skin. That’s a mistake, and Lyme disease becomes much more devastating as time passes without treatment.
There are two kinds of meningitis: viral and bacterial. Viral meningitis is serious; bacterial meningitis is deadly. Suspicion of either requires immediate action, with particular focus on definitively eliminating the bacterial kind as a possible diagnosis. (It can kill in mere hours.) Too often, doctors dismiss meningitis in patients who lack the telltale sign of a stiff neck, which doesn’t always show up right away.
When pulmonary embolisms are misdiagnosed, doctors usually think it’s a heart attack. The good news is that, even though they’re wrong, they will keep the patients in the ER on suspicion of cardiac trauma. The bad news is that embolisms demand swift action, and hours spent barking up the wrong tree (i.e. a heart attack) can prove costly. In even more frightening cases, doctors dismiss a pulmonary embolism as pneumonia and send the patients home.
As Miami medical malpractice attorneys, we have seen these and other commonly misdiagnosed conditions cause profound illness and loss for Florida families. We urge everyone to be proactive in making sure that your diagnosis is the right one.
Misdiagnosis Could Happen in Your Family Too
Doctors mean well, and most are very good at what they do. No physician scores a 100% batting average on the diagnosis front, though, and that means you should always value your own instinct if you suspect something isn’t right.
Ultimately, even when the doctors don’t mean to make a mistake, Florida law assigns the physician the responsibility for carefully arriving at an accurate diagnosis. Those who suffer as a result of misdiagnosis may be entitled to considerable compensation under Florida medical malpractice law
If you or someone you know has been injured or fallen ill as a result of a misdiagnosis, the Miami medical malpractice attorneys at Kaire & Heffernan, LLC can help.