It is not uncommon to hear that the practice of medicine is as much art as it is science. That may have been the case once upon a time, but we suspect that most everyone, even doctors, would agree that the scales of that balance have tipped strongly in favor of science. We have learned an amazing amount in just the last 200 years. And we are learning more new things every day.
But just because discoveries have been made doesn't mean that the information has filtered its way into the bedrock of the medical profession. If that were the case, concern about the issue of errors in diagnosis wouldn't exist as it does in Oregon and the rest of the country. Current research suggests this is a major problem and that the medical industry knows it.
According to one recent analysis, it's estimated that 12 million Americans may be suffering as a result of failed or missed diagnoses. In some cases, the implications of those errors might not be too concerning, but one patient safety expert says he believes some 6 million people may be suffering serious harm.
And a 2006 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that of 300 malpractice cases studied, 59 percent involved diagnostic errors that resulted in major adverse outcomes. And diagnosis mistakes were found to have contributed to patient deaths in 30 percent of cases.
For the sake of clarity, misdiagnosis is one that is delayed or missed altogether. And those with experience in this area know that complications or death can result, especially in circumstances where cancer is involved.
Individuals or families who suspect misdiagnosis or a failure to diagnose should know that they have rights and that exercising those rights may well depend on consulting with a skilled attorney.