Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. The World Health Organization stresses that early detection of cancer greatly increases the chances of successful treatment. An important part of early detection is proper screening, which is use of tests to identify individuals who have a disease. However, when a patient undergoes screening, such as a radiological procedure, and a medical professional misreads the test, the outcome can be catastrophic.
Importance of Proper Radiological Care
Radiological procedures help physicians get a better look at what is happening inside a patient’s body. These procedures reveal conditions such as tumors, broken bones and internal bleeding. Doctors rely on the results of these tests in making a diagnosis. In order to save peoples’ lives, the tests must be read properly to deliver a correct diagnosis that will lead to proper treatment. When they are not and a patient suffers injury, a delayed diagnosis or treatment, or a worsening in their condition, they may be able to file a medical malpractice suit to hold wrongdoers accountable.
Medical Malpractice Case
This is what happened in a recent case in Boston. MassLive.com reports that a jury just awarded $16.7 million to the daughter of a woman who died because her radiologist missed evidence of her lung cancer in her chest x-ray. This is the largest medical malpractice award so far this year in that state. The cancer patient died in August 2008 at the age of 47; roughly two years after the radiologist erroneously read her chest x-ray as normal. Due to that misreading, her lung cancer was not detected until 13 months later than it otherwise should have been detected.
The Boston Herald reports that the deceased visited the hospital’s emergency room in October 2006 complaining of an ongoing cough. Doctors ordered a chest x-ray to determine if pneumonia was the cause. The radiologist examined the x-ray and ruled it was normal. Based on that ruling, doctor diagnosed the deceased with an upper respiratory infection, gave her antibiotics, and sent her on her way. Then, for thirteen months, her lung cancer worsened. When her symptoms worsened thirteen months later, she went back to the hospital. A doctor ordered a CT scan, and the advanced-stage lung cancer was revealed. She died only seven months later.
Every kind of cancer is different, and the steps we can take to try to obtain an early diagnosis very from cancer to cancer. Whether its regular self breast exams for breast cancer, or checking for changes or new moles to detect skin cancer, there are things patients can do. But in a case like this, where both the patient and the doctors are relying on a radiologist for an answer, the patient is completely dependent. Without a radiologist whose work is up to the standard of care, it can be impossible to get the right diagnosis, and the results can be deadly. While this verdict is a good result for this patient’s daughter, no verdict can ever truly undo the harm caused in these sorts of cases.