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Failure to Diagnose most common reason for malpractice lawsuits

Pittsburgh residents know how important an early diagnosis is when you are dealing with a serious condition. Treating serious conditions like cancer and heart disease is almost always easier the earlier it is caught. As diseases progress they become increasingly difficult to treat, putting patients at risk of permanent injury or even death.

For these reasons, we expect our doctors to be thorough when diagnosing symptoms we are experiencing. Even if we aren't experiencing specific symptoms, we still expect doctors to know what to look for in routine exams. Unfortunately, a recent study found that failure to diagnose conditions is a serious problem that has led to death for some patients in our country and others.

According to the study, which was published in BMJ Open last month, missed diagnoses were the most common causes of medical malpractice lawsuits in multiple countries, including the U.S. Cancer and heart attacks topped the list of these missed diagnoses. Sadly, in as many as 48 percent of these cases, the patient died because of the physician's failure to diagnose him or her.

Doctors and hospitals often blame these issues on the current state of the health care industry in our country. They say that doctors are encouraged to perform more tests by some in order to ensure a thorough evaluation of a patient, but others tell them to only do what is necessary in order to cut down on costs. No matter what the reason actually is, it is the job of doctors and hospitals to ensure that patients' health comes first. Hopefully they will find a way to make sure patients get the quality care they deserve.

Source: CBS News, "Most common medical malpractice claims for missed cancer, heart attacks," Ryan Jaslow, July 19, 2013

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