The typical medical school education teaches it’s doctors-to-be to match the patient’s symptoms to a mental medical encyclopedia of diagnoses. (A great episode from the TV comedy Seinfeld comes to mind wherein Kramer’s complaints of certain symptoms are correctly diagnosed by the doctor in training as gonorrhea!) However, Dr. Jerome Groopman, a professor of medicine at Harvard University Medical School, believes this process can lead to dangerous misdiagnoses. The rules which save the life of a typical patient can blind a doctor to the problems of an atypical one – for example, a very fit man in his 40’s who, unusually, has coronary heart disease.
Misdiagnoses occur in some 15% of all U. S. case according to Dr. Groopman. Read the The New Yorker’s article on this topic.