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Diagnostic errors may occur at any time

Your illness caused you pain and discomfort for weeks, perhaps months or longer. If you heard yourself describing the symptoms again and again with increasing intensity only to have your Georgia doctor send you home with another prescription, your frustration may have turned to anger. To make matters worse, your doctor may have even suggested the symptoms were in your head.

At a turning point, your doctor was no longer able to deny you were ill, but then the illness had progressed to a critical stage. Perhaps now you are disabled, suffering life-long consequences or facing the end of your life. If you are suffering because of a doctor's failure to diagnose your illness, you are not alone.

Mistakes from the very beginning

Missed or incorrect diagnosis is the most common medical malpractice claim in the U.S. Because diagnosing an illness involves a series of events, there are multiple chances for the process to break down. However, studies show that a surprising number of diagnostic mistakes, about one third, occur in the very first step when a doctor or nurse takes your medical history.

This step includes asking you about your past medical issues, surgeries and illnesses, determining whether you have allergies, and learning about the medical history of your close relatives. Your doctor should also do a thorough exam at this point, including blood work. Unfortunately, some physicians listen to your symptoms, make a knee-jerk diagnosis and dismiss you with an antibiotic or painkiller.

The next steps in the process

After your medical history and examination, a doctor may order tests. Here are where nearly half of the diagnostic errors occur:

  • Doctors fail to order the appropriate tests.
  • Doctors neglect to include tests related to your age or genetic makeup.
  • Lab technicians make errors when running the diagnostics.
  • Specialists misread or misinterpret test results.
  • Doctors neglect to report test results to you or to your physician.

The most critical errors occur during the testing of the sample. Radiology is especially susceptible to these mistakes, and patients with cancer are those most often misdiagnosed.

Your continued suffering because of an incorrect or missed diagnosis has likely affected every member of your family. You may be dealing with permanent changes in your lives, and these are difficult to adjust to. Seeking assistance from an attorney can provide you with some comfort if you are successful in holding your physician responsible for the errors he or she made. A successful medical malpractice claim may also provide some relief for your loved ones.

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