Bradenton Herald reported last week on the culmination of a medical malpractice lawsuit filed by a breast cancer victim against a negligent medical facility. The plaintiff went to visit the clinic-which focused exclusively on breast cancer treatment-because she felt a lump on her breast. A mammogram was taken which was examined by a doctor at the facility. However, the doctor failed to see any abnormalities. The doctor did not recommend that a simple sonography be take in the area where the lump was felt. The woman was told that everything was fine.
It wasn’t fine.
In reality the woman, a mother of three children all under ten years old, had breast cancer. By the time the cancer was actually diagnosed, 16 months later, the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes and bones.
The woman field a medical malpractice lawsuit and the case just recently went to trial. At the trial the plaintiff’s medical malpractice attorney offered testimony from several expert witnesses who explained what steps should have been taken by the medical facility which would have led to the cancer being caught earlier. An oncologist also testified as to the degree to which her prognosis was compromised as a result of the 16 month delay in treatment and spreading of the cancer. After a three week trial and a day of deliberations, the jury reached a unanimous verdict in favor of the plaintiff. They found the clinic to be negligent in its actions which caused substantial harm to the plaintiff. She was awarded $15 million. It remains unclear if the clinic will try to appeal the decision.
“Failure to diagnose” cases are perhaps most common where cancer is involved. That is because cancer prognoses are heavily dependent on when treatment is provided. Cancer is a bodily invader that, given time, spreads to different parts of the body and causes a range of problems. When caught early, doctors have a better chance of extracting the cancer and potentially offering a full cure. However, the longer delay the more the cancer is allowed to spread. The spreading of the cancer makes it much more difficult for the doctors to completely extract. The difference for the patient is incalculable-often determining life and death.
Our Illinois medical malpractice attorneys have helped many local families in this exact situation. It remains sad that community members are forced to deal with long cancer odds that could have been prevented. Medical experts are in a unique position of power when it comes to the well-being of residents. Patients rightly rely heavily on the recommendations and decisions of their medical providers. If one goes in to get information about a concern, the doctor’s assessment is trusted. When that assessment is wrong and caused by negligent care then the patient has a right to legal recourse if the failure to diagnose caused them harm. It is important to remember that an incorrect diagnosis is not automatically grounds for a lawsuit. Instead it is when the diagnoses is wrong because of incomplete evaluation that the law might play a role in providing relief for the victim and their family.
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