Journal of IiMER Volume 10 Issue 1 June 2016 When the hoof beats are zebras By Maureen Hanson An analysis by Johns Hopkins researchers claims that a third of all deaths in the US annually are due to medical errors. This finding not only calls for better reporting of such errors, but also for better medical training to prevent them. But death is not the only outcome of medical errors—instead, unnecessary patient suffering can result. Anyone who binge-watches the TV show Discovery Life: Mystery Diagnosis will soon detect a pattern, one that demonstrates the need for improvements in medical training. A typical show might have a young woman suddenly taken violently ill with an apparent stomach flu. But instead of getting better, she continues feeling nauseated and weak. She has to drop out of college. At home she develops a myriad of symptoms—such as night sweats, sore throat, swollen glands, and difficulty reading and speaking. She visits a doctor, who tells her she has strep throat. Despite antibiotics, she doesn’t get better, then goes to an internist, who tells her she should see a psychiatrist. Professor Maureen Hanson is Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Cornell University and conducts NIH-supported research on Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. She is with The OpEd Project’s Public Voices Fellowship at Cornell. This continues on for several more scenes—sometimes several years in the life of the ill person whose story is being told—as one after another wrong diagnosis is made. The mistaken doctors are always played by actors, as no doctor who gave the incorrect diagnosis would like to be identified. Finally, a smart doctor figures out what is wrong, and is identified by name and appears on the show. The grateful young woman now has a diagnosis, and sometimes a treatment, often leading to a happy ending. Such could be a show made to describe Laura Hillenbrand’s journey to a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis, as described in her vivid, and often shocking, New Invest in ME (Charity Nr. 1114035) www.investinme.org Page 43 of 77

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