The Top 4 Reasons Cancer Medical Malpractice Cases Fail in Court
Was the doctor aware of the cancer symptoms that the plaintiff claimed to have had?
Many times a visit to the doctor is for the evaluation of a single pressing problem. Ultimately the reason for the visit may have nothing to do with a cancer later found to be present. The plaintiff may claim that a symptom of cancer was reported to the doctor, but the medical record may not mention it. If a plaintiff has a history of only going to see the doctor when an acute problem is present, the doctor may be able to say that the patient did not comply with preventative care; he or she only came in when he or she had a cold, etc. and there was little opportunity for routine screening. Or they may say that they were not told of an alarming symptom.
Did the plaintiff comply with doctors recommendations?
Often a patient will underestimate the gaps between doctor visits, the visits they themselves cancelled or rescheduled, and the time they took before getting tests done. It’s hard to blame a doctor for a delayed diagnosis if the patient caused most of the delay.
Does the medical record support the claim that the status of the cancer changed during the delay in diagnosis?
If the documentation of the size of a breast mass during the interval between two office visits or two mammograms does not suggest any significant change, the defense may be able to assert that the delay in diagnosis had no impact on treatability or survivability of a cancer.
Would an earlier diagnosis have made a real difference in the treatment needed or the chance of a cure?
This may be the most difficult question of all. The fact is, some cancers, such as small cell lung cancers vs. non-small cell lung cancers, have devastating consequences and require the same treatments if they are diagnosed at three months, six months, or potentially longer. Mistakes in diagnosis or treatment may not have major clinical implications in terms of the ultimate outcome. On the other hand others cancers, such as testicular cancer, Hodgkin’s disease and some lymphomas, prostate and breast cancers, are quite curable even after metastasis. Liability in these cases is potentially much higher.
However, even in these cases, a short delay in diagnosis of one to three months may not be substantial enough to claim that a plaintiff had lost the chance of a cure or more tolerable treatment. These are the types of questions your lawyer has to answer before filing a claim for a cancer victim. This is not an easy process. Often a significant amount of research has to be performed before the matter can even be turned over to an expert.
If you have experienced a cancer misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, you should speak with an experienced Georgia medical malpractice lawyer to make sure your rights are protected.