Medical malpractice can happen in almost any medical context because there is often a lot at stake in treating a patient. There are grave consequences to many physician errors. Doctors can prescribe the wrong medication for a relatively insignificant illness and cause life-altering or fatal consequences. In fairness, there are few professions where the consequences of errors are so meaningful. Most jobs are far more forgiving of mistakes. But many mistakes on the human body cannot be easily undone.
Still, there are several common types of inquiries medical malpractice lawyers repeatedly get from clients:
Breast Cancer: Failure to diagnose breast cancer is a common malpractice claim. Often, a missed breast cancer diagnosis claim is against a radiologist who misreads a mammogram. While it is true that good doctors can make mistakes, the reality is there are a minority of radiologists who are not very good at reading a mammogram and fail to see the severity of the breast lump is ignored as benign or underestimated.
Lung Cancer: Failure to diagnose lung cancer is also a common claim malpractice lawyers see. Like every cancer but maybe particularly in lung cancer cases, it is important to diagnose lung cancer early and misdiagnosis leads to delayed detection which makes treatment down the road that much more difficult. It seems the most common problem doctors have in diagnosing lung cancer is not ordering the appropriate follow-up tests, particularly for nonsmokers who you would not expect to be at risk.
Colon/Rectal Cancer: Early diagnosis of colon and rectal cancer is key not only to survival rates but also to how invasive the treatment will be. The difference in surgical options with colon cancer, for example, may mean the difference between invasive laparoscopic surgery and an open abdominal procedure. Often, these cancers are misdiagnosed as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) or some other ailment.
Infection: Many hospital infections are not caused by hospital malpractice. Even when hospital malpractice is the cause, it is hard to prove. Many infection malpractice lawsuits come from a hospital’s failure to properly diagnose and/or treat the patient after the symptoms of infection were evident.
Aortic dissection: The classic sign of an aortic dissection is a tearing sensation in his or her chest. But it is not the only symptom and aortic dissections are often dismissed as heartburn.
Heart Attacks: There are a million heart attacks in the country every year, many of which are misdiagnosed by medical providers because the symptoms are not classic. Like non-smokers in lung cancer cases, patients that are otherwise not at high risk are often overlooked in spite of the fact that their symptoms are consistent with a heart attack. What often leads to an incorrect diagnosis is that doctors ignore the symptoms because they are focused on the patient’s patient’s age, sex, weight, and medical history. Doctors sometimes rush out of the ER or exam room patients who are short of breath, telling them then need to work out when the patient is actually suffering from heart disease that needs immediate treatment.
Appendicitis: These cases fall into a common pattern. The symptoms are ignored, usually by primary care doctors or doctors in the emergency room which causes the appendix to rupture, spilling bacteria-ridden intestinal contents into the stomach, causing peritonitis or septicemia. Appendicitis is often misdiagnosed because there are other possible causes of stomach pain.