Cancer is a devastating diagnosis. This is sometimes compounded by substandard medical care. Over the years, I have seen several types of medical malpractice cases related to cancer diagnosis and treatment.
The first type is the failure to timely diagnose cancer, which can cause loss of a significant chance to successfully treat the cancer. For example, a radiologist may miss a tumor on a mammogram or other radiographic study, such as a chest x-ray or CT scan. By the time the cancer is discovered, it has grown and spread, thus endangering the patient's life and leading to additional surgery and debilitating conditions that could have been avoided with early diagnosis.
Other failures to diagnose could be misread pap smears, failure to act on PSA tests, failure to order colonoscopy/failure to act on colonoscopy results, failure to follow up on unexplained symptoms such as abdominal pain, persistent cough and the like.
The key to proving a case of delayed cancer diagnosis is to show: 1) Substandard care in the delayed diagnosis; and 2) That the delay caused the cancer to progress from durable to incurable and/or that the delay resulted in significantly more treatment and injury to the patient. Each element requires the testimony of w well-qualified expert witness. This second element is especially tricky and involves postulating what might have happened with early diagnosis.
The next type of potential malpractice relates to the treatment phase. In short, sometimes the treatment is poorly done, resulting in injury. For example, a medical provider may fail to recommend appropriate follow-up chemotherapy/radiation to treat a certain cancer. Such failure may lead to recurrence of the cancer, need for subsequent surgery and increased chance of death.
Another issue is that sometimes, cancer treatment itself can cause severe illness that may require hospitalization for fluid support and rehydration. Chemo-induced dehydration and illness is potentially life-threatening and must be recognized and acted upon by medical providers.
The medical/insurance industry often defends cancer malpractice cases aggressively, including blaming patients for things like smoking or failing to be more proactive in their care despite assurances from doctors.
Each case of cancer-related malpractice must be carefully analyzed, and appropriate experts must be retained. Schmidt, Sethi & Akmajian has the experience to navigate these cases.