People in Colorado expect to receive a correct diagnosis and proper treatment when they go to the doctor’s office or the hospital with a medical problem. However, medical errors can pose a serious risk to patients’ health; people who are misdiagnosed may face a worsened health condition or incorrect treatments that actually undermine their well-being. In the late 1990s, studies estimated that around 98,000 people lose their lives each year across the United States due to medical mistakes, sparking media reports and official hearings about the problem.
Medical technology has improved a great deal in 20 years, but doctor errors continue to pose a risk to patients’ health. Some estimates indicate that the annual death toll linked to medical mistakes is twice the number it was two decades ago, making medical mistakes the third leading cause of death nationwide. Around 1 in every 20 patients is exposed to some kind of harm that could have been prevented. Of those, 12% lead to death or lifelong disabilities. However, medical error often flies under the radar of health priorities, research funding and media attention.
In many cases, some of the most serious errors are linked to misdiagnosis. Incorrect diagnoses can be particularly problematic in case of a progressive disease. For example, the failure to diagnose cancer during the window for early treatment means that the cancer could grow and spread before the patient receives a correct diagnosis. Estimates indicate that $1.8 billion in malpractice cases has been linked to diagnostic errors concerning cancer, vascular diseases and infections.
While patients may look for reassurance in the advanced imaging technologies available, the avalanche of data may actually lead to more confusion and serious errors. Patients who have suffered worsened health due to a medical mistake may consult an attorney about the potential to pursue a malpractice case.