Indiana Attorney Agrees that Our Medical Diagnostic System Needs an Overhaul

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Mike Stephenson of McNeely Stephenson, whose practice includes representation of those harmed by medical misdiagnoses, says that we need to reduce diagnostic errors in order to benefit everyone.

Indiana Attorney Mike Stephenson

Too many people are being harmed by our apparent problem with widespread, inaccurate medical diagnosis. One significant medical diagnostic error in your lifetime is one too many.

Injury lawyer Mike Stephenson commented today on a new report which states that most of us will have at least one wrong or late diagnosis in our lives.

“Too many people are being harmed by our apparent problem with widespread, inaccurate medical diagnosis,” Stephenson commented. “One significant medical diagnostic error in your lifetime is one too many.”

The report, released in September 2015 by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, contained two rather shocking conclusions. One was that postmortem exams suggested diagnostic errors played a contributing role in about one in 10 patient deaths. Another indicated that, each year, one in 20 of all those who use outpatient care experience a diagnostic error.

Incorrect diagnoses are costly, both in monetary terms, in missed treatment opportunities, and in terms of personal trauma to patients and their families. Litigation costs are also substantial. Missed or wrong diagnoses were the leading cause of medical malpractice judgments between 1986 and 2010, according to a study of 350,000 U.S. malpractice cases.

“Many factors contribute to the problem,” Stephenson went on to say. “We’ve got medical professionals who don’t communicate sufficiently with each other or with patients. The pathologist rarely speaks to the one who is sick, and specialists often don’t converse with a patient’s main physician. In addition to that, we need to make better use of our medical technology, such as the electronic medical records that are gaining more and more ground. These better enable the sharing of information among professionals.”

The researchers mentioned two points that they believed contribute to the problem. One is that doctors receive limited feedback on the accuracy of their diagnosis when someone dies, because the performance of autopsies is often limited. The second point scrutinized our medical malpractice laws, which the authors of the report believe discourage the revealing of diagnostic errors.

Stephenson concluded, “There’s no question that greater transparency when it comes to diagnostic errors is needed. As a society, however, we will have to balance transparency while retaining legal protections for those people who are genuinely harmed by the very few bad actors in our medical system. I am in favor of whatever brings the greatest good to the greatest number while simultaneously protecting those who are harmed through no fault of their own.”

Mike Stephenson, a personal injury lawyer with McNeely Stephenson of Shelbyville, Indiana, near Indianapolis, has been successfully litigating malpractice and other cases of negligence in Indiana since 1981. He can be reached at 1-855-206-2555.

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