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Inaccurate diagnoses are more common than you might think

We know that doctors sometimes misdiagnose conditions. In the more serious cases, they may tell a patient they have a mild condition when it's actually something very serious and potentially fatal without proper treatment.

A doctor may believe that pain is just a strained muscle and prescribe pain relievers when the person's really having a heart attack. A physician might tell someone that stomach discomfort is a gastrointestinal ailment when it's really a symptom of an ovarian tumor.

These are extreme examples of what can happen when doctors don't take the time to do the proper tests but, instead, rely on their experience and instinct. In many cases, both the misdiagnosed condition and the real one are relatively minor. Nonetheless, the patient often undergoes needless suffering and takes the wrong medication -- wasting time and money.

Missed diagnoses are somewhat different from misdiagnoses. However, they can also lead to serious and sometimes fatal consequences. A misread scan that shows no tumor when there is one is an example.

So how often do misdiagnoses and missed diagnoses occur? Unfortunately, they happen more often than you might think. Experts say that about 40 percent of all diagnoses are wrong.

Patients often accept their doctors' diagnoses because they trust them. They may not have the money to spend on getting a second opinion. They don't want to seem like a hypochondriac. If a doctor says they're suffering from a mild condition or one that's essentially their imagination, they're relieved. They don't want to explore further. These are just a few of the reasons why misdiagnoses and missed diagnoses can go on to harm people.

Even when a diagnostic error is discovered, patients and their families may feel they have no legal recourse. After all, no one is perfect. Doctors and even labs are allowed to make mistakes, right?

It depends. If a medical professional missed a problem because of negligence or because they didn't provide the standard of care expected, they may be able to be held liable for medical malpractice. If you believe that your case may rise to that level, it's important to seek legal guidance as soon as possible.

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