Physical Illnesses Misdiagnosed

Studies show the frequency with which physical illnesses are misdiagnosed as “mental illness.”

In one study, 83% of people referred by clinics and social workers for psychiatric treatment had undiagnosed physical illnesses; 42% of those diagnosed with “psychoses” were later found to be suffering from a medical illness, and in another study, 48% of those diagnosed by psychiatrists for mental treatment had an undiagnosed physical condition.*

If you are ever faced with the loss of a loved one following psychiatric treatment, the following should be done immediately: 

  1. Under the Access to Medical Records Act 1983, patients or their guardians are fully entitled to their medical records and you should proceed as quickly as possible to obtain them. Although it is common practice for parents and guardians to be told the records are not available or have been lost or gone missing, you should continue to seek the help of your general practitioner, solicitor or the police on how best to obtain them.
  2. Each patient death resulting from an accidental overdose, asphyxiation or other psychotropic drug-related cause, should be investigated for criminal culpability.
  3. Such an investigation should also include possible fraud or at least malpractice: the psychiatrist or doctor picking a “disorder” from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or simply acting on the advice and promotional materials of drug companies to prescribe the drugs, is simply gross irresponsibility.
  4. Medical licensing boards investigating cases of medical negligence or misconduct involving prescription practices leading to the death of a patient, should be required to report these to the police for criminal investigation.
  5. During any postmortem of a patient death, Coroners should be asked to do full toxicology tests on body tissue, (liver, kidney, heart and brain tissue) not just body fluids (blood and urine), to determine full toxicity of drugs in the system. Since some psychiatric drugs do not show up on regular toxicology testing, it is important that the Coroner is instructed by the family to do full toxicology testing for all drugs that were prescribed.

*David E. Sternberg, M.D., “Testing for Physical Illness in Psychiatric Patients,” Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 47, no. 1 (January 1986 Supplement): 5: Richard C. Hall, M.D., “Physical Illness Presenting as Psychiatric Disease,” Archives of General Psychiatry 35 (November 1978): 1315-20; Ivan Fras, M.D., Edward M. Littin, M.D., and John S. Pearson, Ph. D., “Comparisons of Psychiatric Symptoms in Carcinoma of the Pancreas with those in Some Other Intra-abdominal Neoplasms.” American Journal of Psychiatry 123, no. 12 (June 1967): 1553-62