If life were like television, people who get sick with strange, life-threatening illnesses would go to Dr. House. Then, after a series of mishaps involving the MRI machine, Dr. House would finally discover the source of the disease, prescribe a treatment, and cure the patient.
Unfortunately, life is not like television, and patients with serious illnesses can go undiagnosed for months, and even years. At best, they live for years with debilitating symptoms; at worst, they can die from the disease. With all of the advances in medical science, how is it that diseases still go undiagnosed?
Studies have shown that 50 percent of medical professionals have personal biases against their fat patients. There have also been documented cases of doctor bias against female and elderly patients. These biases can negatively affect the quality of care a patient receives, and even prevent diagnosis.
For example, a 37 year-old female college professor in the UK recently died of lung cancer. She had been complaining of symptoms for the better part of two years, and every doctor she consulted diagnosed it as a psychological illness. Yet her symptoms continued and, by the time they discovered the cancer, it had already spread throughout her body.
If you suspect that your doctor is ignoring your symptoms due to a personal bias, do not be afraid to “fire” him and find another doctor. If you feel that your doctor has caused you injury, you can also seek legal help from a law firm like Hausfeld that specializes in personal injury cases.
If you discover that other patients have also had issues with that doctor, or medical practice, you could even look into a class action suit by contacting Hausfeld LLP.
Not all diseases have a clear means of diagnosis. For example, there isn’t a single test that diagnoses lupus. Instead, the doctor has to look at a combination of symptoms, and observe individual organs, to determine if the patient has the disease. Some of the tests required to observe the organs could require approval from the insurance company. The insurance companies could also require the doctor to exhaust other treatment options before approving further testing.
Sometimes the diagnostic criteria changes, and doctors and labs don’t update their information.
For example, thyroid disease is diagnosed by measuring the levels thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). Traditionally, if TSH levels were between 0.5 and 5 the patient was considered normal. A new TSH range, of 0.3 to 3, was introduced in 2002. Unfortunately, many labs and doctors have never updated their information. Additionally, many insurance companies also rely on the old range and will not approve or pay for treatment if the patient is within that range.
This means that patients who would be diagnosed under the new criteria, but are normal under the old, are falling through the cracks.
Lack of Knowledge
The truth is, what we don’t know about the human body could fill the known cosmos. Your doctor can only diagnose based on what he knows. So, if a serious disease that your doctor doesn’t know about has early symptoms that are similar to a less serious disease that he is familiar with, he could diagnose you with the less serious disease. If the treatments for that disease don’t work, he could assume that you just need more medication and never look beyond what he knows.
The best way to protect yourself is to become your own health advocate. This means taking control of your health and your healthcare by educating yourself on your body and your symptoms. This also means challenging and educating your doctor, and being willing to change doctors or demand a referral to a specialist if you feel you are not getting the treatment you need.
You can also act as a health advocate for your loved ones, to ensure that they get the care they need. In some cases, this could even mean retaining a lawyer to ensure your legal right to act on their behalf with hospitals, insurance companies, and even government agencies.
This article was written by Jenna Brown. Jenna is a freelance writer who has been blogging on random topics from law to business since her days in college, feel free to e-mail her if you would ever like to have her write for you!