When a person is misdiagnosed by a doctor, many things can go wrong fast. Precious time is wasted on treating conditions that were never correctly diagnosed, and this can cause a patient’s condition to worsen or the person even to die.
A misdiagnosis can happen in many different ways. Sometimes patients exacerbate the problem by attempting to diagnose themselves. A suspected diagnosis can be self-reported by the patient as if it were fact, and the intake nurse simply adds it to the chart.
But doctors are supposed to rely on other corroborating signs and symptoms when making their own determinations. Patient histories are important tools, but only one of many upon which physicians rely.
Not all patients report all symptoms, especially ones they consider embarrassing. A doctor cannot rule out or diagnose conditions simply on the basis or absence of a patient’s self-described symptoms.
Doctors can drop the diagnostic ball by not diagnosing a less commonly occurring disease, or by over-diagnosing conditions that get a lot of media attention. Depending on who is making the diagnosis, this can be quite common. A family practice physician is not going to be as likely to spot a rare condition as would a specialist.
There can be different treatment biases as well. A surgeon is probably going to want to excise a tumor, where as an oncologist may prefer to try a few rounds of chemotherapy to shrink it. If the wrong decision is made, patient mortality can be on the line.
For some patients, doctors consider the economic impact of expensive diagnostic tests. Rare conditions that are diagnosed by costly procedures might be missed in an effort to save the patient some money. A doctor can also stop with a superficial diagnosis when further analysis could add clarity and focus.
Lab tests can fail, and pathology results may be read wrong, causing the critical treatment window to narrow. Sometimes human error causes patient samples to get mixed up, which could result in a healthy person being subjected to invasive procedures or surgeries while someone with a malignancy receives a clean bill of health.
If you suspect you were misdiagnosed and your condition worsened because of it, you may need to pursue legal claims against the physician and facility that employs him or her.
Source: Rightdiagnosis.com, “Why Does Misdiagnosis Occur?,” accessed Sep. 16, 2015