Study after study reveals that a diagnostic error is the most common form of medical negligence in California and throughout the United States. According to research from Johns Hopkins University, these mistakes account for the largest portion of medical malpractice claims. This type of error includes the following:
- Incorrectly diagnosing a problem
- Missing the diagnosis completely
- Failing to make a diagnosis in a timely fashion
Diagnostic mistakes, the study notes, account for roughly 160,000 patients who suffer significant permanent injury or even death every year.
Unnecessary testing and treatment are also high on the list of mistakes that physicians make. Doctors may order surgical procedures that are not an integral part of someone’s healing, and the operation can have serious consequences. Additionally, tests that are not crucial can have ill side effects. For example, the National Cancer Institute reports that computer tomography, or CT, scans can actually cause cancer, and ordering one that is not necessary could be a huge medical mistake.
Psychology Today reports that medication errors cause injuries or illness to approximately 1.5 million Americans every year. A mistake in this area could involve the wrong dosage or wrong prescription. Patients may also contract an illness from their very presence in the hospital; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that hospital-acquired illnesses affect 1.7 million people every year.
While “never events” may be rare, the consequences are just as severe as those associated with other leading causes of medical malpractice. These occur when a physician operates on the wrong body part or leaves tools inside someone’s body.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality encourages patients to remain vigilant in order to avoid such errors. They should alert a doctor about any medications they are taking, make sure hospital staff wash their hands before any treatment and thoroughly research the facility before scheduling surgery.