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People of Color Are Often Misdiagnosed

When people seek medical care, they expect to be attended by experts. However, people of color frequently experience different, more unfavorable patient safety outcomes. 

These negative outcomes can be attributed to differences in the quality of hospital patients’ access, according to a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation analysis assessing the state of racial disparities in the quality and safety of inpatient care. The study found that patients of color have a greater likelihood of misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose than white patients and are more likely to suffer greater harm from diagnostic errors.

Explicit racial bias, implicit racial bias, missing data, lack of trust, and reduced access to medical care can cause or contribute to a misdiagnosis situation with people of color. 

  • Explicit Racial Bias – Explicit racism is overt discrimination. It’s true that despite their education, some doctors and nurses are prejudiced. This prejudice can have significant negative effects on healthcare outcomes for people of color.
  • Implicit Racial Bias – Implicit racial bias means that our brains can only process what we experience ourselves. Implicit bias is the tendency to stereotype, which can lead to discrimination even when people feel they are being fair. Implicit biases are primarily unconscious and do not imply overt racism. The two most common ways implicit racial bias affects diagnosis are when a healthcare professional is dismissive of a patient’s information overall or downgrades the scope and quality of their pain.
  • Missing Data – Missing data is also central to why misdiagnoses occur more frequently for people of color. For decades, medical study participants were primarily healthy white men. Studies that evaluate healthy white men don’t fully apply to women of any race or people of color. Also, minority patients are poorly represented in clinical and drug studies, in part due to difficulty recruiting patients of color to participate in research studies due to a lack of trust. 
  • Lack of Trust – Establishing trust with your healthcare professional is essential to a successful relationship. However, research has found there is deep-rooted distrust by people of color for medicine and doctors in general. In addition, there has been an established history of adverse treatment of minorities by the medical system. Lack of trust can lead to a misdiagnosis when patients are not fully forthcoming about their health issues. 
  • Reduced Access – Barriers to getting medical care can lead to poorer health overall. On average, people of color wait longer at their doctor’s office and in the emergency department. They also are often evaluated and treated at lower-quality hospitals, which can result in a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose.

What Is a Misdiagnosis?

In the world of medical malpractice law, there are a number of errors that are included under the term “misdiagnosis” or “failure to diagnose.”  Sometimes, symptoms overlap or are confusingly similar, which can lead to a misdiagnosis. In addition, if a medical practitioner does not provide due care, he can miss important signs during evaluation and treatment and be liable for a failure to diagnose. Common misdiagnoses include cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and cancer. 

Serious consequences can and do result from a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose, up to and including death. But there is a remedy under the law. A patient who has been misdiagnosed due to the negligence of a medical practitioner can file suit against the medical practitioner if the patient can prove he has suffered compensable harm. 

Claimants should be aware that there is typically a two-year statute of limitations in these types of cases. The timing begins when a doctor fails to diagnose or incorrectly diagnoses a condition. 

Florida law makes it difficult to bring medical negligence claims. Claimants must engage in a pre-suit period before they can file a Florida misdiagnosis claim. It is strongly advisable to retain an attorney who is well-versed in medical negligence laws. If you think you or your loved one is a victim of medical malpractice, you should act promptly, because these cases must comply with a statutory scheme that is time-intensive, rigorous, and specific. A Haliczer Pettis & Schwamm Ft. Lauderdale misdiagnosis lawyer can advise you if you likely have a case.

Contact a Ft. Lauderdale Misdiagnosis Lawyer

Eugene K. Pettis, the first African American President of the Florida Bar and Co-Founder of HPS, has made it his mission to educate the public on the issue of healthcare disparity in our communities. He and other attorneys at Haliczer Pettis & Schwamm have frequently uncovered situations where our client’s concerns were valid. We have found that, in many cases, because of their social, economic, or racial status, our clients have suffered from a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose situations. 

We know how urgent these cases are for you and your family. If you believe you or your loved one is a victim of medical malpractice due to healthcare disparity issues, contact Eugene K. Pettis or one of our other HPS attorneys for a free and confidential legal consultation at 1-800-693-4465 or fill out our CONTACT FORM.