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Doctors’ Mistakes Lead to Yearlong Delay in Diagnosis of Breast Cancer

Our Chicago wrongful death attorneys were concerned to hear about a study published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology, which showed that, for the period from 1991 to 2010, medical malpractice lawsuit payouts increased from $22 million to $91 million per year – an almost four-fold increase. While it is certainly encouraging to hear that the victims of medical malpractice are receiving compensation for their injuries, it is still disconcerting that the underlying errors are occurring.

According to a report by MSNBC, the study examined the National Practitioner Data Bank to obtain a dollar value for malpractice claims, especially as they relate to payouts for injuries caused by communications problems. Included within the duty of care that healthcare providers owe patients is the fact that doctors must communicate with patients about test results and related concerns. When a healthcare professional fails to be in contact with a patient, and that failure leads to an injury, an Illinois medical malpractice lawsuit may arise.

That is exactly what happened in a recent case, where confusion over doctors’ names led to an almost yearlong delay in the diagnosis of breast cancer. As per MSNBC‘s report, after the woman’s annual gynecological exam and mammogram, she received a letter from her doctor indicating that the results of her Pap Test were normal; since no word had come regarding the results of her mammogram, she assumed that she would hear from her doctor if the test indicated any abnormalities.

A year later, when the woman went back for her annual exam, her doctor was unable to find the mammogram results from the previous year. Because the woman had taken the test, the doctor searched for the results; as it turned out, the results had been sent to the wrong doctor – an orthopedic surgeon who had the same last name as the woman’s gynecologist. Said MSNBC, the folder had been sitting on the orthopedic surgeon’s desk for a year.

The mammogram results indicated that the patient was suffering from breast cancer. By the time the results were located, the cancer had spread to her chest wall, which required further surgeries and more intensive treatment than had the cancer been diagnosed earlier.

The patient filed a lawsuit and eventually settled the case; she has stated publically that she blames both the doctors for the mix-up, and herself for not following-up to make sure that the results were normal. Although patient follow-up can certainly make a difference, the onus is on the doctors to ensure that the results are delivered properly and the patient is contacted about the findings. Nevertheless, because we’ve seen that these devastating mistakes do happen, to protect one’s self, it is always in the patient’s best interest to ensure that test results are normal.

Medical tests are indispensable, and have the ability to reveal important information about a person’s health. Illinois medical malpractice lawsuits may arise when failures in communication prevent a diagnosis from being made, and a patient is injured as a result.

Medical malpractice injuries are devastating and potentially life altering. Our Chicago personal injury attorneys have handled a number of these types of cases, and even won a record high $14 million verdict against a doctor and hospital for not following and ignoring abnormal chest X-ray results, which caused a substantial delay in the diagnosis of lung cancer.