“Brain on Fire” and Misdiagnoses

Dear Watchers:

In reference to “Brain on Fire” by Susannah Cabalan …

Looking at the medical profession from the point of view of a journalist, doctors are pretty good at answering the Who, When, and Where, but dismal at What, Why and How. And if you are the Who, you want to know What, Why and How. Many doctors are not adept at diagnosing disease, and the medications prescribed often do more harm than good. Someday, we’ll be able to put blood or spit into a computer diagnostician and come up with answers. Maybe that’s possible now, but it is not available to us ordinary citizens.

Meanwhile, we suffer more or less. In the case of Susannah Cahalan, who wrote “Brain on Fire,” she and her family suffered greatly and she could have ended in a mental ward had not someone (Dr. Souhel Najjar) finally diagnosed that she had a rare autoimmune disease attacking her brain. She was misdiagnosed by many doctors before that breakthrough. It might never have come had her family not spent the million dollars she figured they spent.

Susannah dedicates her book to “… those without a diagnosis.”

Carole Slesnick  (former science and health textbook editor)