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Misdiagnoses Result in Malpractice Claims

Malpractice claims are often associated with mistakes or harm suffered in the hospital. But in Massachusetts, and probably elsewhere, malpractice claims in primary care are becoming more important. Nearly three-fourths of them are rooted in misdiagnosis. The most common missed diagnoses are breast, lung, colorectal, and prostate cancers, heart disease, blood vessel disease, infections and stroke. The investigators urge doctors to review and change routine outpatient practices that may lead to misdiagnoses and inappropriate treatment.

[JAMA Internal Medicine, online Sept 30, 2013]

There is also a commentary on this research.

To reduce your chance of getting the wrong diagnosis and therefore the wrong treatment, you may want to use the suggestions in our book, Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them. You will also find information about common misdiagnoses and stories from other readers here.

Nancy M gives one example: “Many years ago I discovered I was pregnant after using a home pregnancy test. I had an appointment to see the ob/gyn for the first time on a Monday, but Sunday evening I had severe pain and went to the hospital emergency room. Once I was there I started bleeding. The doctor never bothered to come to the hospital but told them to send me home and he would see me in his office the next day for a ‘threatened miscarriage.’ I refused to leave (I couldn’t have walked if I tried because of the pain) and after lying in the emergency room for several hours, my blood pressure plummeted and it was then they finally diagnosed that I was hemorrhaging from an ectopic pregnancy. I still shudder when I think of the consequences had I left the hospital and gone home.”

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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