Delayed Diagnoses as a Basis for Medical Malpractice
Among other things, visiting a physician is an educational experience. The patient tells the physician the detail and extent of his/her symptoms, and the physician provides a diagnosis, detailing the condition and how to treat it, if possible. Unfortunately, some conditions, typically terminal illnesses, require quick action to effectively treat them, as time can truly be the enemy. Delaying a diagnosis for a terminal illness may be cause for securing the services of an experienced medical malpractice attorney. Recently, a Massachusetts family won a multi-million dollar verdict from a doctor who did not inform the patient of a possible symptom that would have led to the early detection of cancer, and, unfortunately, the patient died as a result. A discussion of medical malpractice, generally, and how a delayed diagnosis of a terminal illness can result in liability for the attending physician and others, will follow below.
Medical Malpractice in Massachusetts
Medical malpractice is a legal action that has its basis in negligence – specifically, the assertion that the medical professional did not act according to a professional standard of care that another medical professional would have used in a similar situation. As such, the elements of medical malpractice are:
- The medical professional did not exercise the professional standard of care;
- The medical professional, by acting as he/she did, caused injury to the patient; and
- The patient sustained damages as a result of the injury.
The professional standard of care in a medical malpractice lawsuit is usually set forth by expert witnesses, typically other medical professionals, who state under oath the level that a reasonable medical professional would have undertaken if he/she was in substantially similar circumstances.
Typically, all medical malpractice lawsuits must be initiated within 3 years of the injury, or when the patient becomes aware of the injury, whichever is later. Further, in no event may a medical malpractice lawsuit be initiated in Massachusetts if more than 7 years elapsed after the injury, with the exception of foreign objects left in the body.
Additionally, in Massachusetts, a patient may not recover more than $500000 for pain and suffering, loss of companionship, embarrassment, and other items of general damages (as opposed to specific damages, such as medical bills), unless a jury deems that the injury caused a substantial or permanent loss or impairment of a bodily function or a substantial disfigurement.
When a Patient Receives a Delayed Diagnosis
Failure to provide a timely diagnosis, especially of a terminal illness like cancer, can sometimes be grounds for negligence. The following are typical reasons a timely diagnosis is not provided:
- Technological malfunctions or other issues with medical machinery used in analyzing or examining the patient;
- Administration of incorrect tests, analyses or the like;
- Misplaced or lost test results; and
- Improper referrals to specialists, or a lack of referral altogether.
If a terminal illness is not diagnosed in a timely fashion, the following persons may be liable if they are involved in providing the untimely diagnosis:
- Physicians and other medical professionals, such as nurses, including specialists and/or surgeons;
- Radiologists (or other persons who misinterpreted the test results);
- Any medical professional who treated the patient for this particular illness; and
- Manufacturers of malfunctioning equipment.
Seek Legal Advice
If you, or a loved one, has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, such as cancer, and you feel the diagnosis came very belatedly, speak to an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. The attorneys at the office of Leontire & Associates, P.C. have experience in medical malpractice actions based on a delayed diagnosis of a terminal illness, and will work to obtain the just compensation you deserve. Contact our Boston office today.