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Implications of Overdiagnosis in Florida Medical Malpractice Cases

Medical Malpractice

Patients often worry that medical providers have missed and failed to treat a dangerous medical condition. And they have good cause for fear because medical malpractice of this type is far too common and causes unnecessary suffering and death on a regular basis in Florida.

However, patients also need to be concerned about overdiagnosis. Doctors who overdiagnose medical issues end up providing invasive and potentially harmful treatment that causes unnecessary harm. These instances are underreported, and many victims are not aware that they could be entitled to compensation. Calling attention to this form of medical malpractice can help protect patients and ensure that they receive fair treatment.  

Different Forms of Overdiagnosis

What exactly constitutes overdiagnosis? People sometimes use the term to refer to various topics. By some definitions, an overdiagnosis involves informing a patient that they have a condition that they simply do not have. Other definitions involve exaggerating the state or severity of a condition.

By other definitions, overdiagnosis occurs when a physician treats a medical condition that would not have harmed a patient if the condition had been left alone.

What all these definitions have in common is that they resulted in unnecessary treatment. In some cases, the unnecessary treatment only added expense, lost time, inconvenience, and wasted resources. In other situations, the unnecessary treatment stemming from an overdiagnosis can lead to much more serious consequences, including severe injuries.

Is a Biopsy Always the Right Choice?

The increasing use of imaging technology in recent decades has led to a tremendous increase in diagnoses of conditions such as kidney and thyroid cancer. In addition, medical definitions have been expanded and symptoms that used to be classified as normal are now classified as indicative of cancer. More patients are diagnosed with cancer without showing any symptoms. Doctors often automatically recommend biopsies. This can help them ensure that they avoid liability for failing to treat a dangerous cancer.

But biopsies carry risks of complications and they are not necessary in every situation. In many cases, it is safer to monitor a condition over time rather than to risk the hazards of surgery.

Strategies to Avoid Becoming the Victim of Overdiagnosis

Patients can take steps to protect themselves from the hazards of overdiagnosis.

  1. Choose doctors with care. Before selecting a primary care doctor or specialist, it is a good idea to check their background to see if they have a history of ordering unnecessary procedures or any malpractice concerns. Read reviews, ask for recommendations, and interview the doctor if possible.
  2. Be sure a test is necessary. Before agreeing to a test or procedure, make sure you understand the reason and the goal. Talk to your doctor about whether you really need the test or procedure. Talk to other providers to get their opinion if you are uncertain.
  3. Learn the facts. You need to understand exactly what a test or treatment will involve, including the risks. You should understand the potential side effects and what to watch for. You also need to know what alternatives are available. For instance, is there a less invasive option? Could your condition be monitored for a period instead of treated immediately? It may be more convenient from the doctor’s perspective to take immediate action, but what matters is the best course of action from your perspective, not the doctor’s.
  4. Get additional opinions. Before undergoing treatment for a potentially serious condition, seek a second opinion from a specialist or medical provider you trust.

Remember that once a medical action is done, it cannot really be undone. It is far better to take extra time and effort to ensure that a course of treatment is necessary and in your best interests ahead of time than to try to deal with the consequences of an unnecessary procedure afterward.

Problems Caused by Overdiagnosis

At the very least, overdiagnosis leads to unnecessary expense and inconvenience for patients. But the problems often become much worse.

Patients receiving unnecessary tests or treatments because of overdiagnosis are put at risk of side effects that can cause long-term harm. For instance, patients with a tumor that is benign or unlikely to cause harmful effects may be subjected to chemotherapy or radiation treatments that harm healthy tissue and cause problems such as:

  • Sores and skin changes
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Bladder and kidney problems
  • Hair loss
  • Infections
  • Loss of memory and concentration

Many cases of overdiagnosis involve unnecessary surgery. Any surgery carries inherent risks, including potential deadly infection or complications from anesthesia. Surgery puts patients at risk of suffering from shock, hemorrhage, deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism, lung problems, urinary retention, and reactions to anesthesia.

An overdiagnosis could lead to the implantation of unsafe medical devices. Doctors might recommend a hip implant or vaginal mesh when these options are not necessary. Or physicians might use a dangerous surgical stapler that leads to severe injuries.

Finally, patients need to be aware that a diagnosis and treatment plan that focuses incorrectly on one condition can delay the diagnosis of a more serious condition. In other words, overdiagnosis of one condition can lead to underdiagnosis of another one.

Talk to an Attorney if You Suffered Harm Due to Overdiagnosis

If you suffered due to medical tests or treatment that was not necessary in your situation, you may be eligible for compensation. No amount of money can restore health or the time you’ve lost, but an attorney can help recover compensation to provide a sense of justice and help meet future needs. Moreover, by taking action, you help call attention to the problems caused by overdiagnosis and treatment.

The dedicated team at Searcy Denney helps patients harmed through medical errors such as misdiagnosis or overdiagnosis. To talk to one of our professionals about options that may be available in your situation, just give us a call or connect online. We have offices to serve you in West Palm Beach, Tallahassee, and Tampa.

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Posted By: Bud Wilder