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What are the provable causes of failure to diagnose cancer?

Failure to diagnose can be one of the most difficult kinds of medical malpractice claims to prove because diagnostic errors tend to happen in the minds of diagnosing physicians. In other words, a diagnostic error isn't necessarily as obvious as other kinds of medical errors such as wrong-site surgery or leaving a medical object in a patient's body during surgery.

Still, diagnostic errors are very real, and studies have shown that doctors' diagnoses are incorrect between 5 and 15 percent of the time. Provable causes of diagnostic errors include the following:

  • Erroneous judgments based on faulty imaging scans
  • Poor communication between medical professionals
  • Poor record-keeping that leads to doctors' not having the current test results
  • Failing to consult with or seek instruction from qualified specialists
  • Failing to train medical staff regarding diagnostic services
  • Not implementing systemic safeguards against failure to diagnose potentially fatal conditions 

Failure to diagnose cancer is one of the most dangerous and one of the most common kinds of diagnostic error. For example, consider the medical malpractice claim of a man who says he was improperly diagnosed while incarcerated in a Pennsylvania corrections facility.

According to the complaint, while the man was an inmate at a facility in Karthus, he began experiencing bowel problems and underwent a diagnostic test performed by a medical technician. The patient's lawsuit claims that a doctor misread the imaging scans the next day, deemed them to be normal, and failed to notice a gastric lesion.

The patient's condition worsened; he underwent a blood transfusion due to anemia; and further testing revealed metatastic gastric cancer. The patient then underwent chemotherapy and radiation.

Now he is suing the employer of the technician who performed the initial diagnostic testing for gastrointestinal problems, claiming the technician was not sufficiently trained. The patient also claims the doctor failed to detect a medical condition that was clearly evident.

If you believe a diagnostic error has resulted in harm to you or a loved one, then don't hesitate to contact a medical malpractice attorney who can investigate and assess your case.

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