• Linda Donnelly Morris

Study shows misdiagnosis common in cases of children

For those of us who have children, there's no worse feeling than when one of our kids has spiked a high fever, has been feeling ill for days on end or has reported dizziness that just won't go away.

And there's no better feeling than when the doctor says, "It's just the flu. She'll be better in a few days."

But what if the doctor is wrong?

It happens.

In fact, an incorrect, failed or missed diagnosis is the No. 1 reason for a medical malpractice lawsuit where children from a month old to age 17 are concerned, according to a study by The Doctors Company, a medical malpractice insurer. It is the second most common reason cited for a malpractice lawsuit when the child is younger than one month old.

More than 1,200 claims that were finalized between 2008 and 2017 were reviewed as part of the study. The study cases were filed against doctors with 52 specialties and subspecialties. The review looked at the factors that led to the children's injuries and found that poor communication between family and physician was a factor in as many as 22 percent of the claims, depending on the child's age.

Procedural failures, such as not informing doctors of test results, also were alleged to have caused many patient injuries.

From the study: "System failures accounted for a significant number of patient injuries. Failing to track orders for diagnostic tests resulted in lost test results. Failing to call critical test results or diagnostic findings to treating physicians delayed treatments."

Medical staff members have a duty to study all relevant information -- x-rays, blood tests, scans and family history -- to make a correct diagnosis for all patients. When there's a breakdown in the system of either communication with families and patients or in a prompt review of medical tests that leads to patient harm, someone needs to be held responsible.

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