Out of all medical malpractice claims, delayed diagnoses surface the most frequently. According to the American Cancer Society, early detection increases a patient’s survival, makes the condition easier to treat, and is considered the next best thing to prevention. With cancer, as well as other similar fatal conditions, delayed or incorrect diagnosis puts a patient at a serious risk, including increasing chances of death. In fact, just a three-month delay results in a higher mortality rate.
Failure to Diagnose, Misdiagnosis, or Delayed Diagnosis?
Several instances lead to an incorrect or delayed diagnosis: doctors or technicians misreading tests and X-rays, losing results, or performing incorrect tests. These, as well as others, lead to diagnosing the patient with another condition or no treatment at all. Rates of delayed or incorrect diagnosis tend to be higher for breast, colorectal, lung, testicular, prostate, and cervical cancers.
However, in a malpractice case, these three instances are not the same. Instead, the differences are:
Wrong Diagnosis: Because of tests or incorrectly examining symptoms, a doctor selects a wrong illness and administers incorrect treatment. In emergency settings, instances tend to be higher, especially for common conditions and illnesses.
Missed Diagnosis: A doctor tells a patient he or she is healthy when, in fact, a disease continues to progress. In this group of instances, a doctor may fail to investigate or order tests for unusual skin growths or lumps; to detect an elevated PSA; to interpret imaging studies; or to analyze tissue cells that indicate cancerous growth.
Delayed Diagnosis: The doctor makes a correct diagnosis but gives it – and starts administering treatment – significantly later. The disease may have progressed to a point that more aggressive, and thus more expensive, treatment is required.
Failure to Recognize Complications: Although a doctor may have given the patient a correct diagnosis, he or she does not correctly identify complications or other factors that could aggravate the condition.
Failure to Diagnose a Related Disease: The doctor correctly diagnoses one disease but not a related disease or condition that frequently goes hand-in-hand with the primary condition.
Failure to Diagnose an Unrelated Disease: While the doctor correctly diagnoses the primary condition, an unrelated second condition is not correctly identified.
Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim
However, those afflicted with the ramifications of a delayed or wrong cancer diagnosis need to realize that hospitals do not hold doctors responsible for all diagnostic errors. Instead, patients need to prove the following occurred as the result of such a scenario:
- A doctor-patient relationship existed
- The doctor had been negligent
- The negligence resulted in injury to the patient.
“Negligence,” in this case, composes a wide range of instances:
- The doctor did not act competently. The patient and malpractice lawyer, as a result, must show another doctor under similar circumstances would have arrived at the correct conclusion.
- The doctor did not include the correct diagnosis in his or her list of differential diagnoses, or included it but not perform sufficient tests or did not get opinions from specialists to come to the correct conclusion.
- Diagnostic test errors stemming from faulty, contaminated, or mixed up equipment, inaccurate procedures, or incorrectly-read results.
- Primary physicians made referrals based on insurance carriers rather than the patient’s health.
Patients finding out they received improper treatment or had been told they were healthy, while a fatal condition continued to progress, experience stress, anxiety, and financial losses, face a greater chance of mortality, and may go through complex late-stage cancer treatments. If you or a family member received a wrong or delayed cancer diagnosis and are now handling the aftermath of uncertainty and higher financial costs, bring your claim to Trantolo & Trantolo’s experienced medical malpractice attorneys.