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$16.7 million medical malpractice award for missed diagnosis

In New York as well as every other jurisdiction, medical malpractice is based on a finding that the doctor or other health care provider was negligent under the circumstances. It must be proved that the defendant’s services fell below the minimum standard of care recognized by the doctor’s peers in the community. Even if negligence is proved, the patient must then prove causation in order to prevail on a medical malpractice claim.

That means that it must be proved by a preponderance of the evidence that the doctor’s carelessness was the direct cause of the condition or injury claimed. For example, if a doctor leaves a small sponge in the patient’s abdomen, and the patient later dies from a cerebral hemorrhage, it’s unlikely that the two events are tied together. Plaintiff’s malpractice attorneys are experienced and adept enough to advise a potential malpractice claimant, whether or not there is a problem in proving causation.

In a case in Boston, a jury has awarded $16.7 million to the immediate family of a woman who died of lung cancer that was subjected to a delayed diagnosis. The patient died in 2008 at the age of 47, about two years after she was informed that she had a normal chest x-ray. She was sent home with some antibiotics for congestion. She returned 13 months later with the same symptoms, and another doctor discovered the lung cancer.

By that point, it was too late to do anything, and she died shortly thereafter. Although cancer is said to be ultimately fatal, there are treatments and procedures nowadays that can extend a patient’s lifespan considerably. Therefore, the jury found that the negligence of the radiologist in failing to properly read an x-ray led to several years more of an extended lifespan denied to the patient. This constituted medical malpractice, both in New York and elsewhere.

Source:, "Jury awards $16.7M in Boston medical malpractice suit" , June 30, 2014