Diagnosing a disease is tough, but getting it right is essential. Getting
it wrong may mean injury or death.

In order to effectively treat a disease, the doctor has to accurately diagnose
it in the first place. If that doesn’t happen the consequences may
be disastrous. “Consider the fact that if a disease is not properly
diagnosed it would mean a person being sick even longer, perhaps getting
worse and developing unnecessary complications. In the worst case scenario,
the person may die. For instance if cancer is misdiagnosed,” observed
Christopher Mellino, of the Mellino Law Firm LLC, in Cleveland, Ohio.

Yes, being a doctor is a difficult job and diagnosing a disease means being
able to accurately note the symptoms, having accurate and effective lab
tests, and two other vitally important things: how much the doctor knows
about the condition and how well the patient communicates. “As you
may well appreciate, it is quite possible to have a break down at any
one of those points in the diagnostic process,” Mellino explained.

How common is
misdiagnosis? It happens quite frequently and may take several forms that range from
only delivering a partial diagnosis to missing an illness entirely. In
the case of a partial diagnosis, the doctor would likely nail down the
subtype of a disease, but miss the mark on related conditions or complications
that may arise with the disease. On the other hand, if the physician entirely
missed the boat in identifying the disease, that is a failure on their
part; or a misidentification.

In the final analysis, some diseases are far more difficult to diagnose
than others, some symptoms are almost too vague to be helpful, and some
medical settings actually lead to misdiagnosis. “For example, working
with infants is challenging because they don’t communicate well.
Behavioral problems, mental and emotional disorders are complex and seem
to morph from one thing to another, and digestive diseases are always
a challenge to assess accurately,” remarked Mellino.

“Interestingly, the one environment where the highest rate of misdiagnosis
exists is the ER. This makes sense if you stop to think about it due to
the high volume of patients and the pressure to move them in and out quickly,”
Mellino pointed out.

The bottom line is that a great number of med mal cases happen because
the doctor failed to diagnose the patient properly. Most often doctors
misdiagnose lung cancer, colon cancer, myocardial infarction and breast
cancer. Once this has happened, the whole medical scenario rapidly goes
from bad to worse as the proper treatment is delayed. “Patients
might want to consider getting more than one opinion if they are ill.
This is often a good way to get a decent assessment of a tricky condition,”
Mellino said.