Many doctors and politicians are hailing genetics-based medical treatments as the future of medicine. With the personalized attention this medical approach allows, patients are expected to soon receive the best possible care in a manner specifically designed to match their genome.
However, implementation of genetics-based medicine currently faces many problems. An Illinois medical errors attorney understands that until this method of care takes better hold in the medical community, patients are likely to experience serious problems with its use, including medical malpractice.
What is genetics-based medical treatment?
Genetics-based medical treatment, commonly referred to as Personalized Medicine, is the ability to identify and use an individual’s unique molecular characteristics to diagnose disease, select treatments and reduce adverse reactions. It is also preventative; patients learn how susceptible they may be to disease and may then take appropriate steps to reduce or eliminate their chances of being affected by the condition. This is all done through the examination of the genome, or the entirety of an individual’s genetic material, which is made up of DNA.
Physicians’ lack of knowledge in genetics
An Illinois medical errors attorney understands that one of the greatest hurdles patients face with genetics-based treatment is a lack of knowledge among current healthcare professionals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in 2012, there were 691,400 doctors practicing in the U.S. Physicians Foundation reports that between 70 and 85 percent of these doctors began practicing medicine before the human genome was even completed in 2001.
Few doctors have a working knowledge of how to properly diagnose genetic conditions or how to relay results to patients. Physicians may not even have the ability to refer patients to geneticists, as there is currently a large shortage of doctors trained for these positions. The lack of knowledge is amplified when doctors turn to genetics testing companies for their information. These companies often speak in absolutes and may fail to disclose the true accuracy of their products.
Potential for misdiagnosis
The New Yorker reports that a little girl and her family recently received devastating news when her pediatrician failed to properly diagnose her. He stated that tests indicated she was suffering from DiGeorge syndrome. The symptoms she had fit with the syndrome, which is associated with growth and learning delays, heart defects and an increased risk of schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders.
After speaking with a geneticist, the family learned that the missing section of DNA that her pediatrician used to diagnose the condition was actually not associated with DiGeorge syndrome. He concluded that the deletion was insignificant. The family would not face years of testing and screening in connection with the incurable syndrome.
Patients who have been injured by a medical mistake should contact an Illinois medical errors attorney for assistance.