A reader who was recently found to have a rare, serious condition sent Doctor D a question about visiting one of several doctors who missed the diagnosis:
It could be terribly awkward to have an appointment with one of them—me with all my new scars and a scary prognosis and them perhaps with their former, incorrect diagnoses of various benign conditions hanging in the air. I'd welcome a chance to let them know that I understand that it's impossible to get these things right instantly every time, and I have no resentment. But would it be better to just see a brand new doctor? Or would my former doctors want to see me? Or would they rather I melt into the ether and just let them forget it all?Human disease is extremely complex, and doctors sometimes miss the correct answer. Every doctor has had that “Oh crap! It was X? I thought it was Y!” panic after finding out about a misdiagnosis. The unspoken truth is that doctors guess—a lot. Usually we make informed, educated guesses, but even good guesses can be incorrect. Unusual conditions can be hard to discover, and we often make several wrong diagnoses on the way to the right one.
Doctor D has made some diagnoses he wished he could "do over" after using his Retrospectascope (D's only medical instrument that produces the right answer every time.)
So on behalf of all doctors, Doctor D wishes he could fall down and kiss the feet of the reader who sent this question! How gracious you are! We feel all patients demand perfection, and we work with imperfect tools and imperfect knowledge. Even the best care won't always produce the right answer—especially at the beginning. Your understanding and kind feelings towards your doctors makes even cranky Doctor D get misty-eyed!
So to answer your question: Go see your doctor!
I wouldn't advise you start out, “Hey remember me? You told me I had Y, when it was really a bad case of X?” Open with this and your doctor is likely turn sweaty and pale with terror. Doctors don't just fear lawsuits. We really hate letting you down. If your doc thinks you are angry about your care, he or she might suddenly become distant or angry too. (We doctors aren't very creative when it comes to covering our fear.)
But if you say, “I really appreciate what you did for me. I know that X is really hard to diagnose, and it often looks like Y,” your doctor might become so overwhelmed by your understanding that they may just break down and hug you. You could instantly become your doctor's favorite patient and be treated like family for years to come!
Have you ever been misdiagnosed? How did it affect your relationship with your doctor? Doctor D would love to hear your story in the comments!