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How may biases lead to a missed or delayed medical diagnosis?

On Behalf of | May 20, 2022 | blog, Medical Malpractice

When visiting a doctor and describing the symptoms that motivated your appointment, a duty of care exists to discover their source. Personal biases, however, may influence a physician to ignore a patient’s complaints. A delay in receiving a medical diagnosis could lead to severe injuries, a disability or death.

As reported by MedicalNewsToday, researchers discovered that 72% of delayed diagnosis cases occurred because of gender biases. The 2019 study found that women averaged longer wait times than men to receive a medical diagnosis. Delays may result from physicians with biases that prevent them from taking their patients’ symptom complaints seriously.

Common biases that may result in a missed diagnosis

According to a study conducted in 2018, gender influenced a patient’s pain treatment. Doctors viewed men who complained about chronic pain without medicine as “brave.” Biased practitioners viewed women who complained about pain as “hysterical.”

The AARP reports that the most common cancerous conditions doctors miss or delay in diagnosing include breast and colorectal cancer. JAMA Network Open published a study showing heart attacks and lung cancer ranked among the top five conditions that involved delays in patients receiving a professional diagnosis.

Miscommunication and gender differences

The AARP also reported that doctor and patient miscommunications regarding symptoms contributed to delayed diagnoses. Ordering incorrect tests for the symptoms described helped contribute to patients not receiving an accurate diagnosis in time. Men and women may, for example, experience different physical sensations during a heart attack.

Individuals who believe a doctor dismissed their complaints may seek a second opinion or visit a specialist. Asking practitioners for medical records and the reasons for not prescribing tests may reveal underlying habits of professional negligence. If a practitioner’s failure to act causes a delay in receiving a medical diagnosis, you may have grounds for a malpractice lawsuit.


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