The Law Offices of Brian E. Quinn

Could a misdiagnosis constitute professional misconduct?

Our professional license defense blog has discussed various allegations that may give rise to an ethical investigation. Today’s post discusses the issue of misdiagnoses.

Diagnostic error may be more common that readers realize. An analysis of 286 cases involving patients that sought second opinions found that 20 percent received a distinctly different second diagnosis. Only 12 percent received the same diagnosis, and the remaining cases involved second opinions that better defined the initial diagnosis.

According to a 2015 report from the National Academy of Medicine, around 5 percent of adults in outpatient care, or 12 million Americans, receive a misdiagnosis every year. Other research has found that diagnostic errors account for around 10 percent of patient deaths, and up to 17 percent of adverse hospital patient events.

Admittedly, modern medicine is very complex. As one researcher observed, diagnosis can be quite difficult because there are about 10,000 diseases, yet only between 200 and 300 symptoms used by medical practitioners to identify them. Additional advice, and a fresh pair of eyes, can be a helpful strategy for patients seeking diagnostic confirmation.

Given this data, should a physician be worried that a misdiagnosis might jeopardize his or her professional license? The answer depends on the context, but it seems clear that professional standards do not require 100 percent initial diagnostic accuracy.

For example, symptoms may manifest differently in individuals, or suggest one of several possible diseases. Through a combination of gathering scientific data and cognitive deduction, a professional can make an informed diagnosis. A professional that conforms to this standard of care will be keeping in accord with his or her peers.

Source: Washington Post, “20 percent of patients with serious conditions are first misdiagnosed, study says,” Lenny Bernstein, April 4, 2017

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information

How Can We Help You?

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.


Privacy Policy

The Law Offices of Brian E. Quinn
1420 Walnut Street
Suite 1200
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Toll Free: 866-657-7318
Phone: 215-268-7241
Fax: 215-557-0087
Map & Directions

Review Us