A failure to diagnose a medical condition can be catastrophic to a patient and his or her family. Failure to diagnose occurs in a variety of situation with a variety of medical conditions. A failure to diagnose is not always the result of medical negligence. Even when there is arguably some medical negligence, a medical malpractice lawsuit may be difficult to pursue. However, where the missed diagnosis results in serious injury or death to the patient, then at minimum, the case should be reviewed for possible medical malpractice.
The failure to diagnose cancer is not uncommon. Nor does it necessarily indicate medical malpractice. There are many cases where it most certainly does. A recent medical malpractice verdict in New York provides a good example. In that case, early testing revealed a lump in the breast of a 50 year old mother of 3. The doctor decided to do no further testing concluding that it was not malignant. Instead, he simply instructed her to come back in a year. Upon return 16 months later, the lump had grown to the size of a golf ball.
After extensive radiation and chemotherapy, the cancer went into remission. The injured plaintiff filed suit and a verdict of $15 million was entered against the doctor. Unfortunately, the cancer has now spread to the patient‘s bones according to news reports. So the seemingly large award may be a hollow victory for the plaintiff and her family.
Had the proper testing been done upon discovery of the original lump, the story would likely be far different for both the patient and the doctor. A simple follow up test to confirm the doctor‘s erroneous conclusion that the tumor was not malignant would have avoided the spread of the cancer, the pain and suffering of the patient, the massive medical expense associated with treating the cancer, the lawsuit and what may end in the death of an innocent patient.
Unfortunately, this fact situation is far too common. It defies logic why a trained medical doctor at would not seek additional testing upon finding a lump in female patient‘s breast. But it happens, not just with breast cancer but all varieties of other cancers and other potentially life-threatening diseases.
For patients and families, cases such as these should serve as notice that where the medical profession refuses to act, the patient must be proactive and persistent. This is hard when dealing with medical doctors. We all want to assume that they are infallible particularly when our health or the health of a loved one is involved. But this is far from the truth.
According to the Institute of Medicine, medical errors kill up to 98,000 patients per year. In fact, this study is from 1999 and the problem apparently has grown worse, not better over the years. So it is critical that patients protect themselves. If the doctor will not act to protect the patient, then insist on it to the point of rudeness if necessary. If this doesn‘t work, find another doctor. Do not assume that the doctor is always right!
And if you are reading this too late to have prevented harm related to a failure to diagnose, contact an experienced personal injury attorney immediately. There are important deadlines that must be met in these cases that when missed will bar your claims completely.