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Misdiagnosis: Woman narrates brush with medical error

Mary Agidi

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Mrs. Omolara Kehinde, a 67-year-old pig farmer in Akure, experienced minor stomach disorder in December 2023 after consuming loaves of bread. Being a learned individual who recognises the importance of seeking medical attention from professionals, rather than resorting to self-medication, she quickly instructed her driver to face a private hospital situated around Ijapo axis of Akure, the Ondo State capital.

As a known patient of the hospital, she was quickly attended to with first aid treatment; but in an effort to ensure that she’d been treated rightly due to her age, the medical officer on duty recommended some tests for her in order to ascertain the real cause of the stomach ache. This led her to a popular diagnostic centre around the state hospital road in Akure the following day, because her hospital lacks equipment to run such medical tests.

She expended over N200,000 for the overall tests as they involved checking through her internal organs especially the kidney and the liver. Days after, she was informed that the tests results were ready. Prior to this readiness of the results, she was already back on her feet performing her normal routine activities, being an hyperactive elderly woman. She however, got the shock of her life when the results indicated high level of liver damage, renal failure and other terrible health conditions that were strange to her.

She was devastated, scared and began to assume how close she was to the grave. The results paper was presented to her medical officer and lots of medications were prescribed for her to start treatment based on the diagnosis. Out of curiosity, and having conducted online research on symptoms associated with the diagnonised diseases, and realised she wasn’t experiencing any of such symptoms she headed back to the diagnostic center where they later discovered that the results weren’t hers.

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This is one of the numerous instances of how innocent patients suffered emotional trauma and consuming wrong medications contrary to the real underlying health conditions that led them to hospitals for medical attention.

We used to watch it in the movies how people were given wrong HIV results, where those whose status supposed to be negative got a result of being positive. This situation has scattered marital relationships, led to suicide, deteriorated health conditions of many patients caused by the intake of wrong medications, disability and death.

Sharing her ordeal with The Hope, Mrs. Kehinde said: “I was so scared when I saw the results with serious health conditions stated in it. Within me I was curious that why am I not having symptoms associated with the stated health conditions? Because whoever owns the results given to me would be finding it difficult to sleep well already, eating well or been able to do any tedious tasks by now. But I wasn’t feeling sick, so after I browsed for the symptoms of those diseases and realized I wasn’t feeling any of such. Also, the result was a CT scan generated one which I remember I didn’t do it after I already paid N70,000 due to fear to enter the CT machine.  I ran out of the theater room that day with the promise that I would be back for it after the new year celebration because the CT scanning machine looks like a coffin, so it was scary.

I then decided to go back to that diagnostic centre for confirmation. Meanwhile, I had started taking medications that are for the treatment of diseases I don’t have”. Till now, they didn’t refund my N70,000 ,not even an apology”.

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Findings revealed that misdiagnosis or wrong medical tests results is caused by  quacks and unqualified medical laboratory personnel, substandard facilities, poor compliance to laid out standard, substandard kits, reagents and chemicals, lack of quality assurance, poor regulation and the usage of pharmacy shops as testing centres.

Contributing to this, a medical Doctor with the Federal Medical Centre in Ekiti state, who didn’t want his name on print, advised patients to always seek second opinion by running tests in two different places.

“So, a clinician, talking about the doctor, should be able to marry the symptoms presented by patients with the laboratory results and question the laboratory  that this cannot be true, go and repeat this test. That’s why I always advise our people to patronise public hospitals because the private hospitals are just business centers”.

He disclosed that some private hospitals are in partnership with these diagnostic centres they referred their patients to, therefore they won’t bother to scrutinize results by relating it with the patient’s complaints but rather place them on medication based on the results.

According to him, misdiagnosis happens across the world, but the chances are slim in the public hospitals space, noting that even though Nigerians complained of delay to get attention, the probability of getting quality services in government hospitals is high compared to private hospitals that are for money-making purpose.

In a report on misdiagnosis published by HumAngle, Medical misdiagnosis was described as a very common occurrence in Nigeria. In 2019, the Medical Council revealed how it was investigating 120 Nigerian doctors for different counts of professional misconduct, while half of that number are awaiting trials.

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Misdiagnosis is also linked to some cancer deaths. According to the Care Organisation Public Enlightenment C.O.P.E, a cancer care organization in Nigeria, misdiagnosis kills 70% cancer patients in Nigeria. This was the case of an astute Nigerian Lawyer, the Late Gani Fawehinmi, who died of lung cancer two years after diagnosis. Meanwhile, before the real cancer diagnosis, he was misdiagnosed in a Nigerian’s hospital where he was told to be suffering from pneumonia until he sought medical attention abroad.

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