Neuron Culture

Misdiagnosing the live and the dead

autopsy

“One in six patients ‘wrongly diagnosed by NHS doctors’,” shouts the Daily Mail (via EvidenceMatters. This should not surprise us: Autopsies have been finding a similar percentage of misdiagnosis among the dead for decades. Doctors will always miss some diagnoses. Progress is a matter of ever narrowing the list of things doctors miss — so the other problems can be diagnosed and treated, letting the patients live longer (till they did of something incurable — or something we still haven’t learned to diagnose. Learn to properly diagnose, say, appendicitis, and you can save the life of a10-year-old (as I was when I had my appendix out) and let him die decades later of old age, something incurable — or something the doctor misses then.

Hard to accept that doctors miss things. They always will. The shame is that they so often miss things and then bury the mistakes — as they do now about 10-15% of the time. Doing so removes the opportunity to learn from the mistake and save the patient from the same one.