15 Doctors Share Appalling Stories of Really Bad Diagnoses

Doctors go to school and go through training for a good portion of their lives, which is why we trust them with our literal lives.

Of course, everyone is human and it only makes sense that, no matter how good they are at their jobs, doctors are going to be wrong at least some of the time.

These 15 misdiagnoses, though, are too blatant to make any patient comfortable.

15. He had to fix it himself.

I had the opposite of this. Had a small rash that wouldn’t go away, so went to see the doctor. He said it was ringworm and gave me an anti-fungal. The rash got worse. I went back, he gave me an even stronger anti fungal.

The rash spread. It was all down my arms. I went back to the doctor to get a referral to a dermatologist. He took one look at the rash and said “that is contact dermatitis.” I had changed soaps, and it irritated my skin and gave me a little rash. The doctor’s stupid anti fungals were making my skin go crazy.

I just stopped using soap for like a week and it was fine, but I had skin discolouration for like a year

14. Doctors like to ignore the gallbladder.

Told by my doctor my health issues were stress related. The second opinion found my gallbladder was functioning at 3% and had that sucker removed a couple weeks later.

What’s worse is I specifically asked the first doctor about gallbladder and they assured me it couldn’t be that.

13. Well that’s gross, Ma.

My mom did something like this to me.

I had a small spot that looked like something she had once so she gave me the cream she’d used.

It got gross looking so she took me to the doctor.

He asked what I’d been using and we told him. He said it was ringworm and whatever we’d been using was essentially feeding it.

It took a couple of months to clear up completely at that point.

12. That was a close one.

Dealt with an unrelated incident, and reading a patients notes found he had been diagnosed with a rare but deadly skin cancer and was booked in to have his upper lip removed. Obviously this would leave the patient quite disfigured.

On a whim he’d booked in to see a dermatologist at our hospital, who advised it was a cold sore, prescribed acciclovir and the problem was resolved.

11. A reprimand? That’s it?

I had a period of about a year, where I was getting constant UTI’s. Which – apparently – as a woman in her mid 20’s is “normally” caused by not peeing after sex. I’m still not sure what was causing mine, but I was NOT sexually active at all, due to vaginismus.

My doctor was away for school holidays and stupidly – I thought I could last a week until she was back – nope. Two days later, I could barely move from the couch in pain.

So, I called a doctor. This doctor (a home doctor cause it was a public holiday) refused to hand over the script until I acknowledged that I was being sexually irresponsible. When I said “I am a virgin” – embarrassing and potentially dangerous statement to make with a strange man in my house while I was home alone – this jackass LAUGHED his ass off and said “No you’re not. Nobody is at this age. Stop pretending to be all innocent”. Slammed the prescription on my coffee table and walked out – refusing to give me the starter dose that they’re required to carry (for people, like me, who are alone and can’t get the prescription until the first dose kicks in enough to begin helping).

I called the office to complain and he did get reprimanded. But holy hell was I embarrassed.

10. The nurses always know.

Nurse here. I cared for a woman who had been diagnosed with broken vertebrae. She was in a lot of pain, couldn’t get her pain under control, and her blood pressure was very low. She’d lose consciousness, and be very difficult to wake. I also couldn’t get her doctor to answer the phone (middle of the night).

Something just felt off about the whole situation. He finally answered and demanded we Narcan her, insisting we’d overdosed her on narcotics (following his orders). I then had a hysterical woman in a lot of pain going in and out of consciousness

I finally walked down to the entrance of the hospital and grabbed the cardiologist who came in at 4:30am for rounds and said “This isn’t your patient but I think she’s going to die.” He came upstairs with me, looked at her and her chart, grabbed the bed and rolled her to ICU himself.

I have no idea how the conversation went between the cardiologist and her doctor. She didn’t have a broken back, she had an aortic aneurysm, which caused the pain and the low pressure, and the loss of consciousness.

She died the next day. Doctors, if the nurse says “something is wrong” you might want to lay your eyes on the patient rather than shouting orders through the phone.

9. It all started with a hangnail.

Got an infected hang nail so I went to urgent care. I got a shot of an antibiotic a a prescription for another. Took the pill for about a week out of the 10 day dose.

On that 7 day mark I was in my chemistry class (which was at the end of the day) feeling extremely lightheaded, tired, and so dizzy I could barely see. I stagger down the stairs of my hs to see the nurse but she was out to lunch. I didn’t know what to do and had bad attendance due to chronic illness so I stayed for the next class. Went home on the bus and passed out on my couch. For the next 2 days I had a bunch of symptoms. I spiked a fever of 104°F, had a swollen lumpy throat, in and out of consciousness, vomiting, coughing, and dizziness so bad i couldn’t stand.

Went in the next night after coming home from school with the fever of 104. Urgent care doctor said that wasn’t a treatable fever, that I had a upper respiratory virus that was also untreatable, and told me to go home and not worry. I wasn’t allergic to the antibiotic I was taking because I was taking it for a week and had no reaction before that day.

Next night felt even worse. Couldn’t keep food down, could barely breathe, dizziness was so bad i couldn’t get up to use the bathroom without being in severe danger of falling. There was also a rash that was going from behind my ears down to my stomach in little red blotches. Went to the ER this time. Also had a yeast infection from the med. Doctor there wouldn’t touch me. He barely wanted to look at me. He wouldn’t do any kind of exam on me besides look at the rash on my stomach. He said it was measles. Gave me nothing for that. Said there was no way I was allergic to the antibiotic. Sent me home.

Went the next day to see my primary doc who squeezed me in due to my symptoms. Talked to the assistant getting my vitals and symptoms about what was going on. She said I was allergic to the antibiotic. She wrote in my chart that I wasn’t supposed to take it. A nurse practitioner came in and listened to me tale of woe. He said I was having a bad reaction and also wrote AGAIN that I should stay away from the antibiotic. He said I could’ve died and usually would’ve because it built up in my system and caused a deadly reaction. Doc comes in and says the same thing. If I take it again I’ll probably die. Not measles, not an untreatable upper respiratory virus.

8. It’s not always the easy answer.

My husband had a situation where he almost died because of a misdiagnosis. To preface this at the time we were young in our mid 20s living in a college town. My husband had horrible pain (on floor on hands and knees horrible), we went to the ER and the doctor barely looked at him and just told him to stop drinking and he would be fine.

We go home the pain is getting worse and now he is vomiting. As soon as the doctors off opens back home were we grew up we drove 1.5 hours to see our primary care. Within 15 minutes of walking into the GP office my husband was rushed to emergency surgery, his gallbladder had completely ruptured and he was going septic.

It was a total mess and he almost died all because of a misdiagnosis.

7. Talk about pain and suffering.

I was diagnosed with MS, sought out a second opinion, and turns out it was an easily solvable vitamin deficiency. Pretty damn different… $15K in medical bills later only go have all symptoms subside with some nutritional advice, and supplements. I’m still salty about it.

6. Don’t want to ignore that.

My grandmother fell from her horse one day. Not a terrible fall, but from the way she landed, she wanted to get checked out – she felt she’d really jolted her neck/spine, and was an older lady with fragile bones.

Her doctor looked things over, gave her one of those soft neck cushion things and sent her home.

A couple days later, she decided to get a second opinion. No real reason, she just hadn’t felt listened to by the first guy.

The second doctor basically took one look at her X-rays and freaked out. He told her they needed to get her immediately into a brace to immobilize her spine (I googled to try to figure out what it was – I think it is a halo brace, but in my memory it’s bigger and more metal than what I was seeing in the pictures).

Basically she’d broken her neck (the same injury that had paralyzed Christoper Reeve), but she wasn’t paralyzed because the vertebrae hadn’t dislocated. The second doctor anything that did dislocate it (another minor fall, twisting wrong in bed) would mean being permanently paralyzed from the neck down.

She wore her intense metal brace that kept her spine in place for a few months and was totally fine, she lived another 15 years after that. But I think about that story often – the second doctor saved her mobility and freedom.

5. Happens to fat people far too often.

I went to a sleep doctor because I was constantly tired and falling asleep standing up and such. Serious shit. Doctor was like “well, you’re overweight, so it’s definitely sleep apnea.”

I did a sleep study, came back negative for sleep apnea. Doctor was like “well, I’m still positive it’s sleep apnea, cause you’re a fatty.” So he sent me home with a cpap machine for a month.

After a month of using the machine, which records your sleep apnea events every night and STILL said I didn’t have sleep apnea, and with me having zero improvement in any of my symptoms, I we t back to him and he said “well, if this isn’t working, I can’t help you, because you obviously have sleep apnea since all tubbos have sleep apnea, so you must not be using the cpap.”

So I dropped him like a fresh turf and went to get a second opinion. New sleep doc, new sleep study. Come back in and the new doctor’s like “Yeah, this is textbook narcolepsy. You have all the symptoms and the sleep study proves it beyond a shadow of a doubt.”

I told him about the other doctor and he said, “This is obviously narcolepsy. Your previous doctor was a moron.” And, unlike the other quotes in this story, that is an actual, direct quote. I’ll never forget the look of disgust on his face when he said the word “moron.”

4. Not a sinus infection.

I went to a walk-in clinic because I couldn’t swallow anything.

The doctor pressed on my forehead and asked if it hurt. I guessed kind of? He told me I had a sinus infection and prescribed me antibiotics (that I couldn’t swallow) and sent me on my way.

Turns out I had had a stroke and ended up spending three weeks in the hospital.

3. I would not have gone back there.

Years ago I had a mycoplasma respiratory infection that kicked my asthma into overdrive. At the time I didn’t have a primary care physician because I didn’t see the point. I’d just go to urgent care for everything.

Despite my peak flow meter reading being at 50%, and despite me telling the UC doctor that I’d had to sleep sitting up the night before (a huge red flag that the patient isn’t properly oxygenating), and despite asking for a breathing treatment the doctor said no because “I’m sending you home with prednisone and your O2 is at 97%.” Note that our bodies are really good at compensating for shitty lungs, so if an asthmatic has a low O2 saturation, they should’ve gone to the ED an hour ago. (97% is fine the issue is my peak flow was down 50%.)

I eventually did get a PCP and I know now why I have one. I eventually told him about that urgent care doctor who wouldn’t give me a breathing treatment, and my doc got SO pissed off! It made me feel very vindicated.

And as a post script, I had to go back to that urgent care the next day, where a different doc did give me a breathing treatment.

2. This should be criminal.

I went to a dermatologist for a rash on my hands and face.

He insisted it was eczema even though I’ve never had eczema on my life. He refused to do any testing or take a biopsy.

He prescribed me a steroid cream for eczema.

The rash spread and got horribly worse. It was all up my arms and all over my face. It was itchy and painful.

I went to a different dermatologist and explained the situation. They took a biopsy.

It was a bacterial infection and the first doctor essentially gave me a bacterial infection on steroids. I was a minor at the time and I don’t know why my parents didn’t go after the first doctor.

1. What the actual f*ck.

My dad had dementia and was basically nonverbal except saying my mom’s name. He called me (we had all the big buttons programmed with my number) and said my mom’s name over and over while sobbing. I assumed they were having an emergency, so I called 911 and asked them to make sure they took Dad with them if Mom had to go to the hospital. Then I headed over to their side of town, the paramedics called and told me what hospital.

I got there and they were discharging my mom, who couldn’t speak or stand up. Dad was running around like a scared toddler. The staff were telling me the ER wasn’t respite care and I couldn’t send my parents there when I needed a break.

I told them she was walking and talking and driving the day before, so clearly something was really wrong and I guess we’d have to call an ambulance to take her to another hospital. They decided to run some tests and figured out she had sepsis. She was in their ICU a couple weeks.

I would be angry beyond words if any of these had happened to me or someone I love.

If you’ve got a similar story, share it with us in the comments.