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Experience causes medical professionals not to question mistakes

When a doctor comes up with the wrong diagnosis or fails to diagnose a clear problem, he or she may not be acting alone. This is often something of a team effort, and other members of the team may be able to catch the mistake.

While testing to see if the way that doctors treat each other made much of a difference when it came to questioning errors, researchers inadvertently stumbled upon a key piece of information: One thing that drastically changes how likely a medical professional is to challenge a mistake is just how much experience that person has.

In the study, they had an actor misdiagnose a condition intentionally while pretending to be a doctor. They then tallied who challenged that diagnosis. A mere 31 percent of medical residents did so. Meanwhile, the diagnosis was challenged by a full 86 percent of fellows and about 82 percent of attending physicians.

So, when doctors worked with other experienced professionals, a lot of clear mistakes were caught before they progressed very far -- though a few did slip through the cracks. When they worked with far less experienced individuals who were still learning, they tended to trust the judgment of the older doctors, and they would overlook those same errors.

Understanding how this works may not save you from a misdiagnosis, but it does at least help to shed some light on how and why it happens. When a doctor makes an error like this, and it has a significant impact on your condition and your life, you may be able to seek out financial compensation.

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