Medical malpractice can take on many forms. Sometimes a doctor does something that actually causes a problem like prescribing the wrong medication or performing surgery on the wrong limb. Other times, the doctor fails to properly diagnosis the patient’s problem. Many times a client comes to us complaining that a doctor failed to properly read an x-ray, pap smear, EKG, blood test or other diagnostic test. In such a case the doctor did not cause the patients problem. Instead, the doctor’s failure to make the proper diagnosis prevents or delays the patient’s treatment.
This scenario often comes up in cancer cases. Let’s say a doctor or laboratory misreads a patient’s pap smear and says that it is normal when it is not. As a result the patient develops cervical cancer and ultimately dies. Of course, the doctor did not cause the cancer which killed the patient but the failure to properly interpret the pap smear denied the patient an opportunity to treat her condition and possibly avoid the tragic outcome.
In Pennsylvania we call these “loss of chance” cases. In other words the doctor’s malpractice took away the patient’s chances of avoiding a bad outcome. A skilled lawyer can make the difference in these types of cases. First, the lawyer must be able to established that the doctor failed to timely diagnose the patient. Second, the lawyer must prove that the delay was long enough to make a difference in the outcome. For example, if a doctor fails to detect lung cancer on a chest x-ray but 1 week later another doctor makes the correct diagnosis the one week delay would not make a difference in the patients outcome. On the other hand sometimes even very short delays can make all the difference. For example, a delay of even a few hours in diagnosing bleeding in the brain can make a huge difference.
In order to determine whether you have a case for delayed diagnosis it is important for the attorney to look closely at the specific facts of each case. Therefore, if you believe that a doctor, lab, hospital or other health provider failed to timely diagnose a disease or condition it is important that you contact an attorney immediately to see if you have a case.