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2 types of diagnostic errors that can harm patients

On Behalf of | Mar 12, 2023 | Medical Malpractice |

Diagnosis is one of the most basic responsibilities of a physician. They review someone’s symptoms, perform special tests and determine the underlying causes of medical issues. The diagnostic process helps doctors determine the right treatment for a patient.

Unfortunately, failures in the process are relatively common. Doctors make millions of diagnostic errors in the United States every year, and almost all of them fall into one of the two categories below.


Someone comes to the doctor with an unexplained rash. Not only has it persisted for two miserable weeks, but the wounds won’t seem to heal. The doctor looks at the wounds and diagnoses the person with scabies.

The patient may counter by saying that they retired last year and never travel, so they would never have been exposed to infectious pests. However, the doctor sends them home with a skin cream. Unfortunately, the treatment doesn’t resolve the rash because the patient actually has lymphoma.

Another doctor eventually realizes that the patient could have cancer and runs a crucial test, thereby figuring out exactly what had caused that annoying rash. Unfortunately, such logical leaps are more common than people realize, with doctors diagnosing someone before they actually rule out other issues. Misdiagnosis not only delays treatment but also frequently subjects someone to unnecessary medical care.

Failed diagnosis

If there is anything more frustrating than a misdiagnosis where a doctor gets the cause of someone’s symptoms wrong, it would likely be the failure to diagnose someone with any specific condition. Doctors may ignore or minimize the symptoms a patient reports and then struggle to reach an accurate medical conclusion. Diagnostic failures often result in patients not getting treatment or waiting far longer than they should for treatment.

Doctors have a duty to their patients, and they should make every reasonable effort to provide the same standard of care as other professionals in the same field of medicine. When a patient can show that a doctor’s diagnostic practices significantly deviated from what other doctors would do, they may be in a position to bring a malpractice claim based on a diagnostic error.

Learning more about diagnostic mistakes could help to inspire someone to demand justice after experiencing medical malpractice. When it comes to this area of law, knowledge certainly is power.