Misdiagnosis: What is it?

What is a Misdiagnosis?

“Diagnoses that are missed, incorrect or delayed are believed to affect 10 to 20 percent of cases, far exceeding drug errors and surgery on the wrong patient or body part, both of which have received considerably more attention.”

Washington Post

A misdiagnosis is an inaccurate, incomplete or delayed diagnosis of a disease, injury, syndrome, behavior, infection or other condition. Errors in diagnosis can be, and often are, extremely serious. They put patients at risk by leading to incorrect or delayed treatment or even no treatment at all. Patients often get worse: they may even die.  

Even one misdiagnosis is something to be concerned about, but studies indicate there are far more than most people realize. The Mayo Clinic reports that only 12 percent of those seeking a second opinion had been correctly diagnosed by their primary care providers, while over 20 percent had been misdiagnosed and 66 percent required changes to their original diagnoses.

Providing an accurate diagnosis is not always easy. According to Mark L. Graber, a senior fellow at the Research Institute International (RTI) and the founder of the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine, “Diagnosis is extremely hard. There are 10,000 diseases and only 200 to 300 symptoms.”

Common Types of Misdiagnosis

Some of the more common types of diagnostic mistakes include:

The wrong diagnosis – this is true misdiagnosis. A doctor may diagnose a patient with one problem, like a gastric issue, when the patient is actually experiencing something else, entirely, like a heart attack.

A missed diagnosis – a doctor may give the patient a clean bill of health, when, in fact, the opposite is true, or diagnose something like cancer when the patient is cancer-free.

A delayed diagnosis – eventually making the correct diagnosis after significant delay is common and can affect the patient’s odds for recovery.

The failure to recognize complications – the right diagnosis without also identifying possible complications or risks can have a negative impact on many illnesses and conditions.

The failure to diagnose a related disease – many diseases go hand-in-hand and failure to take these into account can impact healing and survival rate.

The failure to diagnose an unrelated disease – although not as common as related diseases and conditions, a patient can have a second, unrelated disease. Failure to diagnose and treat can not only expose the patient to the detrimental effects of the second disease but undermine the treatment of the original disease.  

Misdiagnosis is a leading cause of medical malpractice lawsuits. Contrary to what many believe, negligence and error are not the same in the eyes of the law, and doctors are not held legally responsible for all diagnostic errors. For malpractice to be proven, there are three basic things that must be present. First, there has to have been a doctor-patient relationship. Next, there must be evidence of negligence resulting from the doctor not providing treatment in a reasonably skillful and competent manner. And, finally, the patient must have incurred actual harm from that negligence.

Medical malpractice laws are complex and vary considerably from state to state. When dealing with anything related to complications resulting from a misdiagnosis, it is important to seek experienced legal advice.

Contact Us

Misdiagnosis can be a careless mistake by a doctor that ends up altering a patient’s life. At Eisner Psychiatric Malpractice and Elder Law, our attorneys specialize in  Psychiatric Malpractice. Psychiatric malpractice includes psychiatric misdiagnosis which can lead to complications with medication, housing, and more.

Contact the professionals at Eisner Psych Law to fight for you, a family member, or a friend.