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Negligence, environment named as sources of failure to diagnose

Feel pretty confident about that last diagnosis? Studies show that relying on a doctor's initial diagnosis might not only be misguided, but it could also be dangerous. Doctor negligence in New Jersey and across the country has culminated in a dangerous environment where a failure to diagnose a serious disease is steadily increasing phenomenon that most patients will suffer from in their lifetime.

Miscommunication has been singled out as a significant contributing factor to wrong or missed diagnoses. Some patient advocates believe that doctors and physicians need to be more engaged and open with lab workers, radiologists and nurses in order to make sure that they have all of the necessary information. Patients are crucial parts of this team as well, and providing them with timely test results or various other medical information could also encourage some doctors to start taking self-reported complaints and symptoms more seriously.

It can be easy to labor under the false notion that only minor illnesses fly under the radar and that doctors will necessarily recognize much more serious afflictions, but this is simply not the case. A prime example occurred in 2014 when a man suffering from Ebola was misdiagnosed in an emergency room and told that he was simply suffering from sinusitis. The man returned to the hospital days later, where he was finally diagnosed correctly. By then it was too late, and he ultimately succumbed to his illness.

Many diagnostic errors go unreported due to an environment that actively discourages disclosing mistakes. As such, it is difficult to peg down the actual number of wrong diagnoses that occur each year, but a conservative estimate puts that number at about 5 percent of adults who receive outpatient care. This type of failure to diagnose is simply unacceptable for New Jersey patients and creates a dangerous gap where they are unable to receive necessary and timely treatment, which typically leads to unnecessary injuries and excessive medical bills. Until such time as the medical community addresses this devastating flaw in the system, victims can address any related damages by achieving compensation after litigating a medical malpractice suit to a successful end.

Source:, "Study: Diagnosis wrong too often, urgent improvement needed", Sept. 25, 2015

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Alan D. Bell
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