Friday, October 05, 2007

A reminder that doctors are fallible

Yesterday we read the appalling news that a woman in Florida underwent a double mastectomy because she was diagnosed with breast cancer--oops, lab mixup. Last spring, an Atlanta man caused international panic because the CDC said he was carrying an incurable form of tuberculosis--oops, re-testing by a different lab revealed that it wasn't that type of TB. Last summer, Derek Fisher was told by a Utah doctor that his daughter's eye would have to be removed to treat her cancer--doctors in New York said that wasn't true. Several years ago, Parker Jensen was said to have a fast-acting cancer and would die if he didn't have chemotherapy--he's still alive.
We're not knocking doctors. They do their best, and such incidents are (we hope) rare. But still, these kinds of stories are scary.

Coincidentally, shortly before the mastectomy story broke, CNN ran an article titled "5 commonly misdiagnosed diseases." The article's first suggestion: Ask for more tests. We tend to assume that labs can't get it wrong, but there is a woman in Florida who would beg to differ. She has now filed a lawsuit, and frankly we hope she gets big bucks. We all make mistakes, but we should accept the consequences when we do.

1 comment:

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