Most readers in Houston, Texas, would be relieved to find out from a doctor that there is nothing wrong with them. But what if the doctor is wrong about the good news? One woman in another state recently died after a failure to diagnose her cancer. Her husband is now suing the doctor and the health center for wrongful death.
The husband says his wife was first diagnosed in November 2011, but a year earlier, she had a bilateral mammogram performed by a radiologist at the health center. He claims that the radiologist and the medical facility were negligent and careless for allegedly using substandard imaging equipment, failing to perform a proper mammogram and then failing to read the radiograph properly. He says the failure to diagnose his wife's cancer eventually led to her death because it kept her from receiving early treatment. The husband is asking for more than $300,000 on behalf of his wife's estate.
This story brings up an important area of medical malpractice law: failure to diagnose. In many cases, a delay or failure to diagnose a patient's disease can result in a lawsuit against the doctor and medical facility, as long as the failure or delay resulted in harm beyond what would have occurred had there been a timely diagnosis.
Failure to diagnose claims can be difficult to prove. The doctor and hospital will probably defend the claim by having an expert testify that the spread of disease may have occurred years before a tumor could have been discovered, and therefore, cancerous cells may have already traveled in the bloodstream to other parts of the body.
But there is little excuse in the 21st century for missing a cancer diagnosis. The lawsuit could hold the doctor accountable.
Source: The Madison County Record, "Failure to diagnose cancer resulted in death, suit claims," Oct. 11, 2012