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Diagnosis Errors: A Common Cause for Medical Malpractice Claims

Mistakes made when diagnosing a patient at a hospital are among the leading reasons why patients or their families decide to take legal action (including filing a lawsuit) against hospitals, according to a recent study conducted by an insurance company that represents physicians nationwide.

The Doctors Company recently released its findings. The insurance company represents more than 78,000 physicians. The report is based on claims filed against “hospitalists” (physicians who work exclusively in hospitals) that were resolved between 2007 and 2014. During that time period, there were 464 closed claims.

By far, the two most common reasons people cited for deciding to take legal action against a hospitalist were diagnosis-related issues (36 percent of cases) and improper management of treatment (31 percent). Other common reasons cited by patients or their families for taking legal action against hospitalists were medication errors (11 percent) and delay of treatment (5 percent).

What types of mistakes are made when diagnosing patients?

In terms of diagnostic mistakes, patients or their families often cited two major reasons why they decided to take legal action against a hospital or a specific physician – incorrect diagnosis and delay in diagnosis.

Incorrect diagnosis of a serious medical condition occurs for many different reasons. Sometimes, a physician fails to take into account a patient’s complete medical history. Other times, a health care provider might misread medical tests X-rays MRI’s or CT scans. Lack of communication between physicians and other medical staff or patients themselves also often contributes to a misdiagnosis of a medical condition.

The Doctors Company report states that such problems often occur at hospitals because physicians working there “have limited access to patients’ past medical histories” and must make “quick diagnosis” of “patients with serious conditions.” Specifically, mistakes made during the initial assessment of a patient occurred in 35 percent of cases.

Delay of diagnosis at hospitals also often occurs. In one of the case examples cited in The Doctors Company report, the document describes a 50-year-old woman who came to an emergency room with fever, chills and pain in her neck. One doctor considered giving the woman an MRI but decided not to do so. Three days after being hospitalized, another doctor ordered an MRI and discovered that the woman had a cervical epidural abscess, which involves compression of the spinal cord. Surgery was immediately performed, but the woman became a quadriplegic.

What can patients do if doctors fail to diagnose an illness or diagnose an illness too late?

Attorney Jonathan C. Reiter of New York has prosecuted many malpractice cases involving incorrect or delayed diagnosis. The most important question is whether the incorrect or delayed diagnosis has irreparably harmed the patient. Sometimes a physician makes a mistake in diagnosis, but the patient gets better or the treatment of would be the same. This is frequently an issue in cancer cases, where the delay in diagnosis might not be long enough to change the patient’s outcome or treatment.

In other cases however, the delay in diagnosis allows the patient’s cancer, infection or other illness to progress to the point that the patient’s chances of survival have been seriously diminished or destroyed entirely. Sometimes a patient may have an injury or illness that could be cured with prompt treatment or surgery, but the delay in diagnosis and treatment results in a catastrophic outcome that could have been avoided. Those unfortunate scenarios are the basis for medical malpractice cases and may result in substantial damage awards to the patient or the patient’s family in the case of wrongful death.

If you have a question about a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, contact the Law Firm of Jonathan C. Reiter, PLLC, and we will explain all the legal options available to you. Call (866) 324-9211 and schedule your free case evaluation. Our offices are located in the Empire State Building in Manhattan as well as in the Bronx.

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New York City Personal Injury Lawyer / Aviation Accident Attorney

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Manhattan Medical Malpractice Info Center

Lenox Hill Hospital

A 652-bed teaching hospital, Lenox Hill Hospital is located in the Lenox Hill neighborhood at 100 E. 77th Street. This 652-bed on the Upper East Side of Manhattan serves mostly patients from Manhattan, but other patients are admitted from Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, Long Island and throughout the tri-state region. Anyone who suspects negligence after treatment should speak with an experienced attorney immediately.

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Manhattan Medical Malpractice Info Center

Bellevue Hospital Center

Bellevue Hospital Center at 462 1st Avenue has 828 beds and experiences 115,797 emergency room visits each year. Bellevue had a higher rate of infections compared to hospitals in other states, according to a New York State Department of Health Report in 2009. Anyone who is injured by the negligence of a doctor or nurse at this Manhattan hospital, the oldest in the United States, will need an experienced attorney with experience and resources needed to take aggressive action.

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Manhattan Medical Malpractice Info Center

New York Presbyterian-Lower Manhattan Hospital

Lower Manhattan Hospital at 170 William Street in New York is one of the main campuses of New York-Presbyterian Hospital. This hospital, with 170 beds, provides a range of inpatient and outpatient services. According to an article in the New York Post, New York-Presbyterian scored 18 percent below average for patient safety in a ranking of hospitals by Consumer Reports magazine. Patients who suspect medical malpractice should not hesitate to arrange a consultation with a New York City attorney who can investigate and hold the negligent medical care provider accountable.

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Manhattan Medical Malpractice Info Center

Mount Sinai Beth Israel

The main hospital known as the Petrie Division is located at First Avenue and 16th Street. But Mount Sinai Beth Israel has other campuses, including Phillips Ambulatory Care Center at Union Square. Mount Sinai Beth Israel is a teaching hospital with 1,368 beds. If you suffered any form of negligence while being treated at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, take action immediately to protect your rights.

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Manhattan Medical Malpractice Info Center

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center at 1275 York Avenue in Manhattan provides cancer care to patients. The hospital is composed of two institutions: Memorial Hospital for Cancer and Allied Diseases, which provides patient care, and the Sloan Kettering Institute, which is focused on research. Patients who suspect a failure to diagnose cancer or some other type of hospital negligence can contact a lawyer to discuss options.

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Manhattan Medical Malpractice Info Center

Mount Sinai Hospital

Mount Sinai Hospital at One Gustave L. Levy Place is a 1,048-bed facility founded in 1852. It is one of the oldest and largest teaching hospitals in the country. Consumer Reports rated Mount Sinai 31 percent below average for patient safety. If you or a loved one was a victim of medical malpractice at any Manhattan hospital, don’t wait to contact an attorney to find out if you have a case. You may be entitled to compensation.

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Manhattan Medical Malpractice Info Center

St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center

St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center at 1111 Amsterdam Avenue was ranked No. 14 out of the 30 worst hospitals for patient safety, as identified by Consumer Reports. The magazine examined four key measures of patient safety: hospital-acquired infections, readmissions and the quality of communication between staff and patients in regard to medications and discharge planning.

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New York-Presbyterian/ Columbia University Medical Center

New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center at 630 West 168th Street was described by a lawmaker as having “horrendous conditions.” Emergency room wait times last an average of 85 minutes, which rank among New York’s 10 worst. Any patient who was treated at the 995-bed hospital in Washington Heights and suspects negligence should not hesitate to speak with an attorney for a free consultation.

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Manhattan Medical Malpractice Info Center

Harlem Hospital Center

Harlem Hospital Center at 506 Malcolm X Blvd. received a 20 on a 1-to-100 scale gauging patient safety by Consumer Reports. The hospital received the second worst score in the nation, according to a New York Post report. Harlem Hospital told Consumer Reports it needs to improve in some areas, according to the Post. The hospital is a general medical and surgical hospital with 272 beds.