Medicolegal matters

Cognitive bias and failure to diagnose: when you need to 'think slow'

Walid Jammal, Naomi Lewis



Articles in this series highlight common medicolegal issues in general practice. Written by a team from medical defence organisation Avant, the series is based on actual cases, with details changed for privacy. This case study explores factors that led to misdiagnosis of an ectopic pregnancy and presents tips for avoiding errors in reasoning and cognitive biases. 

Article Extract

The diagnostic process is often said to exemplify the interplay between the art and science of medicine. Clinicians are required in their everyday work to use their expertise and skill to accurately execute the diagnostic process. When patients present with a problem, clinicians often respond intuitively, sometimes even without conscious effort. But sometimes this intuitive, ‘fast thinking’ can lead them astray.1

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Model used for illustrative purposes only.