Over-diagnosing patients is emerging as a trend in the medical industry that could become worse over time, and eventually lead to medical negligence claims from those who suffer because of it.
Although the idea of overdiagnosis sounds relatively benign at first, it can have serious implications in the long term. A growing number of people are raising their voices against doctors who are too quick to place blame on a particular disease or condition, and then treat it with relevant prescriptions.
The rising rate of Alzheimer's Disease diagnoses is a good example. At the Preventing Overdiagnosis conference that healthcare industry leaders recently held in the US, a group of experts from the UK and Australia said that if this rate continues, about 65 per cent of all people over the age of 80 could be diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
This could lead to unnecessary treatment if some of the common symptoms of aging are in fact mistaken for Alzheimer's, including overmedication, numerous costly tests and skewed medical data.
But this problem isn't limited to the aged population.
Harming the healthy may mean medical negligence
One 2012 paper, released by the BMJ Group, showed that there is serious concern over how many medicines doctors a freely prescribing, the rising rate of diagnoses and the number of treatments that are now available but may be unnecessary.
"Screening programmes are detecting early cancers that will never cause symptoms or death, sensitive diagnostic technologies identify 'abnormalities' so tiny they will remain benign, while widening disease definitions mean people at ever lower risks receive permanent medical labels and lifelong treatments that will fail to benefit many of them," study authors wrote.
The report went on to say that overdiagnosis can cause serious financial problems, too. The US, for example, is believed to have wasted as much as $200 billion on unnecessary treatments, which "poses a significant threat to human health."
According to the Irish Times, pulmonary embolism is fast becoming an overdiagnosed condition, which could have serious consequences. This could be because of new technology that can spot the smallest of clots, which may pose no threat whatsoever. However, this could still lead to risky procedures.
The BMJ Group stated that breast cancer, thyroid cancer, gestational diabetes and chronic kidney disease could all potentially be diagnosed far more than they should.
Those who have suffered from complications brought on by unnecessary treatments may want to consult medical negligence lawyers to determine what legal action is possible.