How does this play out within the VA medical care system?
Veteran Administration Position on Early Detection
The VA takes a strong and medically rational position on early detection. In a post on the VA’s website, VA National Leader in Providing Mammograms, the VA states:
“Two very important words can save lives:
Women Veterans are encouraged to keep those two words in mind every month, not just in October during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”
The post goes on to state:
“ The value of early detection is borne out by the statistics: The overall five-year survival rate from breast cancer is nearly 90 percent. If the cancer is caught while it is still confined to the breast, the survival rate increases to nearly 99 percent.”
VA Position v. Practices
The stated policy is inconsistent with the many findings of deliberate delay in treatment, falsified medical records and wait times, falsified refusals of mammograms, continuing long wait times, and on and on.
These practices have undoubtedly impacted the health and lives of many female veterans. After all, “early detection…saves lives”.
The delays themselves even in the absence of deliberate wrongdoing may constitute medical malpractice. Deliberate delays and falsifications of records despite knowledge of risks to the patient with resulting harm most assuredly would.
Delay or Failure to Diagnose and Medical Malpractice Claims
Breast cancer may have varying progression rates depending upon the patient. However, early detection remains key. A 6 to 9 month delay is the minimum delay required for many medical malpractice attorneys, including Collins & Collins, P.C.
The evaluation of a medical malpractice claim for delayed diagnoses or failure to diagnose will depend on the individual patient and the medical records. These evaluations take time so it is important to be proactive with your claims.
Gather the Medical Records ASAP
The first and most important step so far as a medical malpractice claims is concerned is to obtain all medical records from each medical provider that might be even remotely connected to the breast cancer. This should be done immediately while the patient is still able to do this on her own. There a numerous good reasons to do this:
1) The case cannot be evaluated by an attorney without them.
2) The case will eventually need to be evaluated by a medical expert which can take time to accomplish,
3) The statute of limitations is only 2 years on Federal Tort Claims Cases and the clock is ticking.
4) Delays in getting the medical records may result in the inability to obtain an attorney to even evaluate the case. Most attorneys are very reluctant to take cases on very short deadlines.
If the situation looks dire, then the patient should get a medical power of attorney in place so that these medical records may be obtained by a loved one in the event the patient becomes incapacitated. It can prove exceedingly difficult to get medical records once a patient is incapacitated due to HIPPA laws. The medical power of attorney should avoid this.
Many times, this is learned too late to do much about it. Under New Mexico law, a surviving loved one can be appointed personal representative under the New Mexico Wrongful Death Act. In fact, this will be necessary at some point anyway in order to pursue a medical malpractice claim on behalf of the decedent’s estate.
Contact an Attorney Right Away!
Medical malpractice cases are generally very difficult and expensive. As such, most attorneys must screen these very carefully. This requires a number of levels of review beginning with the first call to a lawyer.
The great majority of experienced medical malpractice attorneys will not simply file suit without a thorough evaluation and an expert medical review. If an attorney is willing to look at a case further, it can take quite some time to get through the case evaluation. All the while, the clock is ticking.
The Albuquerque attorneys at Collins & Collins, P.C. can be reached at (505) 242-5958