It has long been recognized that as many as 100,000 patients die every year from medical malpractice. One of the more common forms of medical malpractice is misdiagnosis. According to a recent study by John Hopkins University, the number of patient deaths from misdiagnosis may be as high as 40,000 per year because of the failure to diagnosis life threatening conditions. Perhaps most striking of all, the study found that misdiagnosis accounts for nearly 10% of deaths in hospital intensive care units. As a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer that handles misdiagnosis cases, I was even shocked by the findings from this study.
The alarming rate of hospital errors stemming from misdiagnosis was based on a systematic analysis of 31 different studies involving autopsy confirmed diagnostic errors in adult ICUs. After extensive meta-analysis conducted at John Hopkins, researchers found 1 in 4 patient deaths in ICUs involved a misdiagnosis. In about 8% of the deaths, the misdiagnosis was determined to have actually caused or contributed to the patient's death.
The study found several recurring examples of misdiagnosis. The most common types of misdiagnosis include pulmonary embolisms, pneumonia, fungal conditions, heart attacks, and strokes. Surprisingly, the study found that ICU patients are more likely to be victims of misdiagnosis than general hospital patients. This is difficult to understand since ICU patients are supposed to receive greater patient monitoring than general hospital patients.
Other common sources of hospital deaths from medical malpractice include medication errors and hospital acquired infections. One way to reduce the number of deaths from medical malpractice, whether from misdiagnosis, medication errors, or hospitals acquired infections, is to first recognize a problem exists. The next step is to identify common, recurring causes of malpractice in hospitals. Once these common causes are identified, hospitals and doctors must work together to determine how to reduce, if not eliminate, these recurring medical mistakes. Otherwise, the number of patients deaths in hospital from malpractice will continue to be unacceptably high.
The Atlantic, Alarming Rate Of Errors In The ICU, August 28, 2012.