Studies show that tens of thousands of wrongful deaths in New Jersey and the rest of the United States are attributable to misdiagnosis, a common form of medical malpractice that seriously harms patient safety and places additional unnecessary strain on an already-overstretched health care system. Here’s what you should know about medical malpractice and how it impacts public health.
What is medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice is the umbrella term for any legally actionable misconduct on the part of health care providers that results in harm to a patient. Common examples of medical malpractice include botched surgeries, the inappropriate prescribing of medications, failure to properly treat patients and misdiagnosis.
What is misdiagnosis?
A misdiagnosis occurs when a health care provider offers a diagnosis for a condition that the patient does not actually have. Often, this entails mistaking one condition for another. The result is that the patient receives treatment for an illness that he or she does not actually have, and the actual condition often remains untreated. Both of these scenarios can seriously harm, or even kill, the patient.
As an example, a misdiagnosis may occur when a doctor tells the patient that he or she has the flu when, in reality, the correct diagnosis is meningitis. The patient receives standard care for influenza and is sent home. In the meantime, the patient’s health condition may deteriorate due to the untreated meningitis, potentially leading to a fatal or debilitating outcome. In this scenario, the doctor might likely be legally liable for the damages. Diagnostic errors are some of the leading causes of medical malpractice suits.
Medical malpractice, often stemming from diagnostic error, is a serious violation of a health care provider’s responsibility to protect patient safety. In addition, it has an enormous negative impact on public health.