Up to 160,000 patients misdiagnosed in U.S. each year

A new report about medical malpractice in the U.S. suggests that as many as 160,000 people's medical conditions are misdiagnosed each year. This has led to nearly $39 billion in medical malpractice payouts in Pennsylvania and across the country. Incidents of misdiagnosis are often preventable and can cause needless suffering in many older patients.

These figures are from a new study from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Researchers examined a nationwide database of medical malpractice cases where the injured patient received some form of compensation, either through a trial verdict or a settlement. From 1986 through 2010, misdiagnosis was the most common form of malpractice in the U.S., making up about 35 percent of all payouts.

Those payouts totaled about $38.8 billion when adjusted for inflation. These funds likely went to compensate patients, many of whom may have been elderly, for additional medical bills incurred because their treatments were delayed or inappropriate because of the misdiagnosis. Sadly, though many of the misdiagnoses were made on an outpatient basis, when doctors misdiagnose a patient in the hospital the consequences are often fatal.

While victims of medical malpractice have the option of going to civil court to be compensated for their damages, the best solution is for people not to be harmed be negligent medical care in the first place. Some observers say that people can help prevent being misdiagnosed by being active in their treatment. Patients should ask questions when they do not understand their doctor's instructions and provide a full medical history.

Source: WFMJ-TV, "'Misdiagnosis' leading cause of U.S. malpractice payouts," Denise Mann, April 23, 2013

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