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Some diagnostic mistakes only come to light after someone dies

On Behalf of | Jul 10, 2024 | Cancer Misdiagnosis

Diagnosis is a major part of how medical professionals support their patients. Dozens of different medical conditions can all cause the same basic symptoms. Patients rely on their doctors to make sense of their symptoms and help them determine the true underlying cause.

For example, what may seem like a lingering chest cold might actually be the early warning signs of cancer. A persistent cough and a sense of fatigue can be an indicator of something seriously wrong with the human body, not just a virus that won’t clear up on its own.

The unfortunate reality is that quite a few physicians do not properly fulfill their diagnostic responsibilities. They rush to a conclusion and may ultimately return the wrong diagnosis. The patients in their care end up suffering because of that mistake. In some cases, a diagnostic failure may only come to light after a patient later dies.

Autopsies often return proof of diagnostic failures

Diagnostic errors are one of the most pervasive and damaging forms of medical malpractice. Patients who don’t receive a proper diagnosis cannot get the treatment they require and may end up with worsening health challenges due to the diagnostic failure of their physicians.

An analysis of diagnostic errors indicates that such failures are relatively prevalent. Somewhere between 10 and 20% of all autopsies show that a patient did not receive an accurate diagnosis when they sought medical treatment.

Family members only learn after someone’s passing that their health declined due to an aggressive form of cancer or another potentially treatable medical issue. Unfortunately, because a doctor didn’t diagnose them, they died.

Families can seek justice after a tragedy

When medical malpractice causes premature mortality, the people affected still have legal rights. They can potentially file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor who failed to diagnose the cancer or the facility that employs that physician.

If other medical professionals could recognize the need for additional testing based on the records of the deceased individual, the diagnostic failure may constitute professional medical negligence. A successful medical malpractice lawsuit can compensate families for medical and funeral expenses, as well as the lost income and support provided by the deceased patient who did not receive a proper diagnosis.

Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit over a diagnostic failure can allow families to seek justice for the professional failings of a physician. The consequences imposed may also prompt a doctor or a hospital to change practices to better protect patients in the future.