Misdiagnosis, the leading cause of medical malpractice claims, results in West Virginia boy’s death

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It is a common misconception that medication and surgical errors are the leading causes of patient suffering and death in medical malpractice cases. In reality, HealthDay News reported that misdiagnoses are the most likely to provoke medical malpractice claims resulting in over $39 billion in malpractice payouts over the past 25 years.

Misdiagnosis often happens because doctors dismiss common symptoms, such as a cough or stomach pains, as minor medical issues when they actually indicate serious and threatening ailments. In February of this year, a West Virginia family filed a suit against an ER doctor and the hospital at which their son was misdiagnosed after he sustained internal injuries in a playground accident. The ER doctor wrote off the boy’s abdominal pain as a symptom of constipation and sent him home. Hours later, the boy died of internal bleeding from a lacerated kidney.

Unfortunately, the deceased West Virginia boy was not alone in receiving a misdiagnosis and, in turn, lack of proper treatment. CBS reported that over 12 million Americans are misdiagnosed each year. This raises the question: why does misdiagnosis happen so frequently? CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook blames abbreviated patient and doctor interaction. He says the average doctor’s visit is rushed and does not allow enough time for communication that could help reveal what is truly wrong with a patient.

Dr. LaPook claims doctors should avoid misdiagnosis by actively listening to patients and making sure to follow up on routine testing. Likewise, he says patients should prepare for doctor’s visits by knowing personal and family medical history in detail and chronological order.