Research published in Perspectives on Medical Education found that health care providers may let bias get in the way of a proper diagnosis. However, making assumptions can lead to poor outcomes for patients. At any given time, a medical professional may make judgments or assumptions about a person based on his or her race, class or sexual orientation.
Those who work in the mental health field may assume that anyone who is having trouble in a relationship may be depressed. One study found that patients who expressed such concerns were given antidepressants even if there was no other basis for doing so. Another study found that black patients were twice as likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia compared to white patients who were more likely to be diagnosed with depression or anxiety.
However, the study found that bias plays a role even in objective fields of medicine. In the first phase of the research, those who participated were told to diagnose a case without considering any of their biases. In the second phase, they were told the results of what happened to the patient after bias led to a misdiagnosis. However, later in the study when participants were told to check for bias, fewer cases were diagnosed improperly.
If a doctor acts in a negligent manner, that may be considered medical malpractice. Patients who experience a worsened physical or mental condition because of such negligence may be entitled to compensation through a lawsuit filed with the assistance of an attorney. Damages sought could include the additional costs of treatment, lost wages for the period when the patient is unable to return to work, and other applicable amounts.