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Failure to diagnose terminal cancer may be medical malpractice

Posted by Joseph F. Sullivan | Sep 21, 2014 | 0 Comments

Failing to diagnose cancer is a relatively common claim in medical malpractice cases, both in New York and across the country. Generally, the case involves the death of the patient after an extended time in which no treatment took place because the doctor misdiagnosed the condition or failed to diagnose it. By negligently failing to find something that other doctors in the same situation would have normally found, the doctor is liable for damages for medical malpractice in contributing to the patient's death.

In some instances, the cancerous condition would have ultimately been fatal no matter what treatment was given. However, it can usually be proved by expert medical testimony that several or even many additional years could have been enjoyed by the decedent if the correct diagnosis had been properly made early on. Those additional years are worth a recovery of damages for their loss.

These facts generally occurred in a case filed in the Illinois courts. The complaint alleges that the plaintiff had a tumor taken out of his bladder area and the doctor told him it was cancer-free. However, a week later a pathology report indicated bladder cancer, according to the complaint. The suit alleges that the doctor did not inform the patient and did not arrange for the patient to get treatment.

Over a year later the patient found out from another doctor that he had bladder cancer, but it was too late, according to the complaint. The man died a few months later, just after filing the lawsuit, which has now been taken over by his daughter. Under required medical malpractice rules in New York and elsewhere, the plaintiff must present expert medical testimony indicating that the defendant doctor should have diagnosed the bladder cancer and should have informed the patient accordingly. If the diagnosis was not determined until a week later, the doctor may have been negligent in not pursuing the patient to inform him fully of the situation and to arrange for treatment or for transfer of the file to another physician.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Lawsuit: Doctor didn't inform patient of cancer", Wes Venteicher, Sept. 11, 2014

About the Author

Joseph F. Sullivan

Born in Jamaica, Queens to working class parents, Joseph Sullivan became the second member of his family to attend college and the first to obtain an advanced degree. He graduated cum laude from Temple University School of Law. While there, he was a writer and editor of the Temple Law Review. ...


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