What is the most common form of medical mistake?

We have all seen stories from Phoenix news outlets of wrong-site surgeries in which doctors amputate the patient’s left leg instead of the right, or remove a healthy kidney instead of the diseased one. We have also heard of surgeons leaving scalpels, retractors and other items inside patients who have undergone surgeries. While these kinds of medical malpractice are horrific, they are thankfully relatively rare in the medical world.

According to researchers, the most common form of medical mistake is misdiagnosis. While not all misdiagnoses have terrible outcomes and not all misdiagnoses can be considered malpractice, this type of medical error always involves incorrect, wrong or delayed assessments of a patient’s condition.

A couple of years ago, Time magazine featured an article on research into misdiagnoses. One of the researchers had been a medical resident at a hospital who witnessed for himself the terrible consequences that mistaken or missed diagnoses could have on victims who had gone to the hospital for help.

One was an 18-year-old skater who hoped to someday compete in the Olympics. She came to the hospital after a fall on a ski slope. She complained of a headache and weakness on one side of her body.

Diagnosis: migraine. She was sent home.

Less than a week later, she was back at the hospital after suffering a stroke.

Another example the doctor saw at the hospital was of a woman in her 50s who came in with a complaint of chest pain.

She had been seen several times at several different hospitals, with every doctor and every examination missing the fact that her pain was caused by spinal cord compression. “By the time it was recognized, she was a paraplegic,” Time noted.

If you or a loved one has suffered injury because a doctor or hospital was negligent in missing or delaying a crucial diagnosis, a discussion of your circumstances with an attorney experienced in medical malpractice matters can make clear your legal options.