Dr. McNutt, who focuses much of his work on “diagnostic mistakes,” contends that in many cases where patients have been said to have been harmed by “missed or delayed diagnoses,” physicians have in fact done nothing wrong. Far from being preventable errors, he says, many wrong diagnoses are often nothing more than adverse events. Doctors, he says, should not be held to standards—in this case, regarding diagnostic processes—that either do not exist or are not based on evidence.
McNutt and his colleagues presented a more detailed analysis of the problem of misattribution in an article in Emergency Medicine which was reproduced here on the AHRQ WebM&M site. They believe research efforts toward better diagnosis may be hampered by overcalling diagnostic error.