Can Genetic Testing Cause a Medical Misdiagnosis?

Posted on November 28, 2016 by Shapiro Law Group


According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, African Americans are at risk for receiving incorrect results from genetic tests for an inherited heart disorder. Specifically, doctors may misinterpret these tests and give a medical misdiagnosis of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The condition, which causes a hardening of the heart walls, is known for triggering the sudden death of athletes who were otherwise healthy.

What Happens When Genetic Testing Causes a Medical Misdiagnosis?

The effects of being misdiagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy are devastating. Patients go through life believing they could die at any moment. They may receive unnecessary medical follow-ups, or told to avoid physically demanding activities. Patients may also undergo unnecessary surgery to implant heart defibrillators.

A recent Wall Street Journal article shared the story of a family that received incorrect information from genetic testing. After a 13-year-old boy died from sudden heart failure, more than 20 of his family members underwent genetic testing. Results from the tests showed they had Long QT syndrome, which can cause sudden death. The boy’s brother even underwent surgery to implant a defibrillator.

After receiving a second opinion from another doctor, it turns out nobody in the family, including the deceased boy, had Long QT syndrome. The first set of doctors had misinterpreted genetic test results. Had they performed conventional tests first, like a cardiogram, it would have revealed the family did not have Long QT.

The Florida medical malpractice attorneys at Shapiro Law Group have more than three decades of experience holding hospitals accountable for negligence.

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