More than 12 million people’s illnesses and injuries are misdiagnosed each year, and those numbers seem to be on the rise. Unfortunately, though, many people don’t realize the error until it’s too late and irreparable harm has been done.
While we all make mistakes (doctors are no exception), the fact remains that physicians have a duty to their patients. That duty is to provide the same level of care as another doctor would provide in a similar situation.
When doctors misdiagnose a patient, they may prescribe incorrect or delayed treatment; in some cases, they may provide no treatment at all. The patient’s illness, injury or condition may become worse – and they may even pass away. If you or a loved one have experienced a severe or fatal misdiagnosis, consult with a medical malpractice attorney in Indianapolis about your rights.
The Most Common Diagnostic Errors
Most physicians are fully qualified to identify and treat diseases, illnesses and injuries. However, some of those conditions are frequently misdiagnosed.
- The most misdiagnosed cancers include lymphoma, breast cancer, sarcomas and melanoma. The Journal of Clinical Oncology says that cancer is misdiagnosed in up to 28 percent of patients; for some types, that figure is as high as 44 percent.
- Celiac disease. This autoimmune disorder causes vomiting, abdominal pain and bloating. It also causes diarrhea, weight loss, anemia and leg cramps. Because the symptoms are related to Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis and irritable bowel syndrome, Celiac disease is often mistaken for something else entirely.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome. Chronic fatigue syndrome causes a variety of symptoms that don’t seem very well connected; doctors don’t know what causes it, and the only way to diagnose it is to exclude other possibilities. Its symptoms include loss of memory or concentration, painful lymph nodes in the neck or armpits, and sore throat. It also causes unexplained muscle and joint pain, and its victims suffer from extreme exhaustion. Because it’s difficult to diagnose, some doctors mistake it for hepatitis, fibromyalgia or lupus. Others mistakenly believe that it’s rheumatoid arthritis or simple sinus problems.
- Fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia causes widespread pain, and it creates incapacitating fatigue in its victims. People with this illness may feel exhausted and incapacitated, unable to perform routine daily tasks. Unfortunately, the symptoms are fairly vague and can be mistaken for rheumatoid arthritis or chronic fatigue syndrome.
- Lupus. Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that damages the kidneys, heart and lungs. It leaves its victims feeling fatigued and suffering from joint pain and rashes. Doctors sometimes misdiagnose lupus because it mimics the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Lyme disease. This tick-borne illness is a systemic infection that comes directly from a tick bite. It causes myriad symptoms, including shortness of breath, chest or rib soreness and neck stiffness. Lyme disease can also cause abdominal cramping, nausea and vomiting, as well as twitching of the face and eyelids. Because the symptoms can range in severity and in number, this infection is commonly mistaken for mononucleosis, meningitis or the flu. It can also be mistaken for chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia or depression.
- Multiple sclerosis. MS is a progressive autoimmune disease, and it attacks the central nervous system of its victims. It causes muscle spasms, a lack of coordination and balance problems, as well as cognitive impairment and blurred vision. Its symptoms are similar to those of Alzheimer’s disease, a viral infection or lupus, and some physicians mistake it for bipolar disorder, as well.
- Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s disease causes hand, arm, leg or head tremors (or a combination of them). It also causes stiff muscles and gives its victims problems with balance and walking. Its symptoms resemble those of Alzheimer’s disease, stroke or traumatic head injury, and some doctors even mistake it for stress.
Although these are the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions, doctors miss hundreds of other conditions each day.
If another physician in the same field would have correctly diagnosed the issue at the right time, the doctor who misdiagnosed the patient may be guilty of medical malpractice in Indiana.
The Consequences of Misdiagnosis
When physicians misdiagnose an illness, disease or injury, the consequences can be fatal. As many as 98,000 Americans die each year due to medical errors, including misdiagnosis, and many others suffer unnecessarily.
At best, misdiagnosis delays proper treatment. A physician treating a Parkinson’s disease victim for a stroke, for example, isn’t going to make much headway. A doctor who believes his or her patient has a viral infection when the patient has multiple sclerosis can do the same.
Yes, we all make mistakes. However, we hold doctors and other medical professionals to higher standards; that’s partly because they hold our lives in their hands. It’s one thing to forget to turn off the coffeepot before you leave for work. It’s another to tell someone with Lyme disease that he or she has chronic fatigue syndrome.
Misdiagnosis in Indianapolis: A Lawyer Who Fights for You
If you’ve been the victim of misdiagnosis in Indianapolis, a lawyer can help you get the justice you deserve. While there’s no guarantee on which way the courts will decide, it’s a good idea to talk to an attorney who can explain your options.
Call our office today for a free case evaluation. Our Indianapolis medical malpractice lawyers will help you make the right choices for your—and your family’s—future.