Diagnostic Errors Are the Most Common Type of Medical Mistake

Published April 24, 2013 by Yassmin Elnazer

Health & Family

When Dr. David Newman-Toker was a medical resident at a Boston hospital, he witnessed what he calls tragic cases in which otherwise healthy people suffered serious consequences from misdiagnoses that could have been prevented.

Newman-Toker, now an associate professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, recalls an 18-year-old aspiring Olympic skater who fell on a ski slope and came to the hospital with weakness on one side of her body and a headache. She was told she had a migraine and was sent home. Six days later, she returned to the hospital after a stroke compromised the entire right side of her brain. He also remembers a hardworking janitorial immigrant in her 50s who came in with chest pain. She was seen multiple times at multiple hospitals and everyone missed that her chest pain was caused by compression from her spinal cord. By the time it was…

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