Avoiding Misdiagnosis: Why Multiple Opinions Matter
- According to a July research study published by BMJ Quality & Safety, roughly 795,000 Americans die or are permanently disabled annually by diagnostic errors.
- No matter what your diagnosis or how accurate it appears to be, it is always worth getting a second opinion at the very least, although in many cases, multiple opinions are crucial.
- Just two days before Christmas in 2021, Tampa Bay resident Judy Karpinksi was told by her doctor over the phone that she had B-cell lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, but after an agonizing two months, she found out she never had cancer.
- Unless the misdiagnosis results in physical injury or death, medical malpractice suits can be difficult to win, so emotional turmoil alone oftentimes will not suffice, which is why it is so important not to panic after a diagnosis, and instead, pick up the phone and call another doctor.
“You sure I have cancer?” the 59-year-old, in an interview with Tampa Bay Times, recalled asking her dermatologist repeatedly.Read More
According to the American Cancer Society, B-cell lymphomas typically affect older people and make up about 85% of the non-Hodgkin lymphomas in the United States.
A Cancer Misdiagnosis
Referred for more testing, Karpinski ultimately found out that she was free and clear, and never even had cancer in the first place.
UF Health, where Karpinski had initially been diagnosed, declined comment to the newspaper but issued the following general statement:
“We seek to provide high quality care for every patient and a safe, secure environment for our doctors, nurses, staff, patient and their families, and visitors.”
Karpinski had gone to a Bay Dermatology clinic in St. Pete Beach to have the two small lumps in her back and shoulder tested, but the actual lab work was sent through UF Health and not performed on site at her first doctor’s office.
When Karpinski was sent to Moffitt Cancer Center for further testing, new biopsies were performed, along with a blood draw producing 17 tubes of blood. The cancer center’s doctors then determined the actual condition that Karpinski had: T-cell lymphoproliferative disorder, which can cause rashes on the skin. Thus, Karpinksi did not have cancer and was sent home with topical cream.
Medical Malpractice Hurdles
Betsey Herd, one of the many attorneys Karpinski contacted following her misdiagnosis and relatively clean bill of health, spoke with Tampa Bay Times, telling the outlet that she had actually declined Karpinski’s case.
“What these hurdles have done is prevented people who have smaller wrongs from being able to be justly compensated,” Herd said, commenting on the fact that patients are rarely compensated for emotional anguish, if there’s no death or physical injury. “I’m not a lawyer who will take a case where I get paid, and the experts get paid, but the client gets nothing.”
Unfortunately, Karpinski was down $20,000 from the whole ordeal, but was told the same thing by everyone she contacted, that filing any kind of lawsuit wouldn’t be worth the court costs.
A Second Opinion Is Vital
According to a July research study published by BMJ Quality & Safety, roughly 795,000 Americans die or are permanently disabled annually by diagnostic errors.
No matter what your diagnosis or how accurate it appears to be, it is always worth getting a second opinion at the very least, although in many cases, multiple opinions are crucial.
Despite the frightening health scare, mental turmoil and medical costs, Karpinski is going to be okay, though it isn’t right what she had to go through — especially during the holidays — and serves as a reminder to always get multiple opinions, especially with serious disease like cancer.
A trustworthy doctor should always encourage another opinion.
Richard Miller from Bay Dermatology spoke out saying that given Karpinski’s cancer risk, getting referred over to Moffitt was the correct one.
“I do what I think is best for every patient,” Miller told Tampa Bay Times. “I would want the same thing done for me that I did for her.”
In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, National Cancer Institute Chief of Surgery Steven Rosenberg echoes this same practice, recommending to seek out multiple professional opinions to confirm a diagnosis — or lack thereof — and figure out the options.
“If I had any advice for you following a cancer diagnosis, it would be first, to seek out multiple opinions as to the best care,” Dr. Rosenberg says. “Because finding a doctor who is up to the latest of information is important, and it’s always important to get other opinions so that you can make the best decisions for yourself.”