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How and why misdiagnoses occur

New York residents who are concerned about the quality of their medical care may be interested in learning about the common circumstances that can cause a misdiagnosis to occur. Doctors, other health care specialists, patients and laboratory or pathology tests can all contribute to a misdiagnosis in some way.

Patients may attempt to diagnose their own medical conditions without consulting medical professionals. If they do see doctors, they may refrain from mentioning all their symptoms due to embarrassment or the belief that they aren't worth mentioning unless specifically asked about.

The limits of a doctor's knowledge may also contribute to a misdiagnosis. There are over 20,000 human diseases, and medical professionals tend to be aware of only the most prevalent ones. Varying levels of skill and biases towards diagnosing what is commonly seen are other common factors that can lead to doctors making the wrong diagnoses. Doctors also only spend an average of 15 minutes with their patients, making it difficult for them to gather all the pertinent information and identify rarer medical conditions.

The laboratory and pathology tests used to verify a diagnosis can also fail. The samples may become contaminated, the test procedures may be improperly executed or the judgment of the individual who visually inspects the result may be impaired. Laboratory tests also have the potential to provide false negatives or positives.

When a doctor misdiagnoses a patient, he or she has committed medical malpractice. Patients who have suffered due to injuries from medical malpractice may have legal recourse. A personal injury attorney may pursue financial compensation for a client's delayed treatment, worsened medical condition or incurred medical expenses.

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