Pathologists are the medical specialists whom few patients ever meet, but they play increasingly important roles in treatment decisions. Some new reports raise concerns about systematic errors in the path lab.
The New York Times painted a surprisingly distanced picture of the work of pathologists in a recent report on these medical doctors who are trained to interpret an array of laboratory tests and often microscopic materials to determine the care for complex diseases.
The paper found that the specialists and their labs mislabeled and mixed up patient samples and results, as well as sometimes contaminating them—yes, rarely, but with potentially significant harms. Erroneous results could lead to misdiagnoses, resulting in patients getting wrong or ineffective treatment, especially for cancers, experts say.