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Laboratory Malpractice

The quality of medical care is depends on the quality of the information your doctor collects. When carelessness, unsanitary conditions, or poor procedures lead to damaged or misplaced specimens, patients suffer. These errors are all the more tragic given that the medical establishment is fully aware that simple and cheap procedures can save thousands of lives and prevent unnecessary and dangerous surgeries. Unfortunately, human error and poor procedure persist and lead to catastrophic damage in even routine cases.

Common Results of Laboratory Errors

Medical diagnosis involves understanding the nature and cause of a patient’s condition. Many techniques are involved, from brief conversations with a health professional to extensive collection of samples from the body.

Diagnostic Errors occur whenever a diagnosis is wrong, delayed or missed, regardless of whether an error in the diagnostic process occurred. It is the most commonly cited medical error leading to patient death—occurring in over 25% of such cases. Although diagnosis is one of the most important tasks performed, patient safety experts are increasingly aware that physicians rely too much on automated technologies and this overconfidence results in serious diagnostic errors.

At any step of the process, human error can lead to a variety of flawed diagnoses:

  • A missed diagnosis occurs when a patient is told they do not have a disease they in fact do have, or will soon develop.
  • Similarly, a delayed diagnosis occurs when the correct diagnosis is learned—but once the disease has progressed to the point where early treatment could have prevented harm. With many fatal conditions, such as breast cancer, early detection is crucial, but simple laboratory errors or misreadings of results can lead to serious injury and death.
  • Overdiagnosis or wrong diagnosis occurs when a patient is diagnosed with a disease they did not have, or will not develop in their lifetime. Even though some diseases, such as prostate cancer, may slowly develop but do not require surgical interventions.
Common Causes of Laboratory Errors

These errors can result from any of the following:

  • “Mixing up” patient samples
  • Clerical errors, such as include mislabeling samples, recording inaccurate information, improperly transcribing records.
  • Poor communication between healthcare professionals
  • Contaminating laboratory specimens
  • Relying on outdated technology
  • Losing laboratory samples
  • Use of substandard materials
What Can I Do?

Physicians and hospitals are well aware of this problem and make efforts to avoid these systemic issues, patients. However, patients continue to suffer from incorrect diagnoses, leading to missed opportunities to prevent disease in some cases, and unnecessary procedures in others.

When patients suffer physical, emotional, or financial harm as a result of a laboratory error, effective legal representation is often the only path to recovery.

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