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Doctors misdiagnose their patients at an alarming rate

You trust your doctor to make the best possible decisions regarding your health care. Like other patients in Massachusetts, you have to rely on medical professionals to take you seriously, order the right tests and render the correct diagnoses. Unfortunately, doctors misdiagnose patients more often than you might think. If a doctor recently treated you but you are not getting better, he or she could have rendered a misdiagnosis.

Both misdiagnoses and missed diagnoses can cause serious harm to patients. Experts believe that these errors in decision occur in as many as 40% of all diagnoses in the United States. This means that the possibility of a doctor incorrectly diagnosing you or a loved one is relatively high.

What is a misdiagnosis?

A misdiagnosis is when a doctor says that you are suffering from a certain condition or illness when you are not. One example might be your doctor diagnosing you with the flu when you are actually suffering from Lyme disease. You could even receive a diagnosis for an illness when you are in fact perfectly healthy and robust.

If a doctor renders a misdiagnosis, your health could be at risk. He or she might prescribe you medication that not only will not help your situation but could also make your current health issues even worse. Taking medication when you are otherwise healthy could also cause problems.

What is a missed diagnosis?

Unlike a misdiagnosis, a missed diagnosis usually involves no diagnosis whatsoever. This can manifest in several different ways. Your doctor could ignore your symptoms and say that you are healthy when you are actually dealing with a debilitating disease or illness. Even if your doctor does take you seriously, he or she could refer you to an incorrect specialist that misses your condition.

In some cases, a missed diagnosis might eventually heal on its own. Unfortunately, many patients are not so lucky. Delays in treatment because of a missed diagnosis can cause long-term health problems that could have been otherwise avoided.

Everyone is vulnerable

Unfortunately, anyone could end up in this predicament. Dr. Jerome Groopman -- a well-known doctor and author -- detailed in one of his books his experience of being misdiagnosed. Actress Fran Drescher and TV host Padma Lakshmi shared similar experiences in which doctors rendered multiple incorrect diagnoses while they continued to suffer. Although these individuals were all able to eventually get the treatment they needed, they spent time suffering when they did not have to.

Doctors have a responsibility to listen to their patients and to treat them to the very best of their abilities. When doctors misdiagnose a person's health problems or miss a diagnosis altogether, they can cause irreparable physical and emotional harm. While nothing can ever fully undo this harm, victims can address their financial, physical and emotional damages through by pursuing medical malpractice suits. Most doctors and healthcare facilities prepare to fight these types of allegations, so seeking guidance from an experienced attorney can be helpful.

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