We are fortunate these days that medical professionals have access to a remarkable array of diagnostic tools and treatment options. Cancer, strokes, heart attack — conditions that may have been fatal a decade ago can often be diagnosed early and treated successfully. Still, we hear about lawsuits involving the failure to diagnose or a misdiagnosis or failure to properly assess an illness or injury that resulted in more harm, even fatal. These results can be attributed to a doctor, nurse, lab technician, radiologist, or substandard and inadequate hospital policies and procedures. If the proper diagnostic tools are not used, or if the results are not reviewed promptly and interpreted correctly, the window of opportunity to provide effective treatment is closed. The patient’s condition may worsen; in the most serious of situations, the patient may die.
These diagnostic failures may be serious, even fatal. Here’s an example: Recently, x-rays were performed on a lung cancer patient. Because the x-rays were misread, the man was not notified that his lung cancer doubled in size and had reached a terminal stage. Although the cancer ultimately took his life, and may have done so regardless of the error, this is no excuse for medical negligence.
Medical professionals must be held accountable for delays in diagnosis that limit treatment options and negligent misdiagnoses that lead to incorrect treatment, lack of treatment, or death. If errors go unpunished, they are far more likely to be repeated. At the trial of this case, the defense argued that the cancer’s primary site was not in the lungs. True or not, the x-rays were not interpreted properly, potentially shortening this plaintiff’s life. Had there not been a misdiagnosis, could appropriate treatment added a few weeks or years to this man’s life? Would knowing that his cancer had reached an advanced stage given him time to spend valuable time with family members, say his goodbyes, and get his estate in order? Ultimately, the jury said “yes” to all of these questions and awarded the plaintiff $1,300,000. Too much? Too little? The jury, without having to deal with all of the political, tort reform, rhetoric, usually gets it right.
It is hard to live with a serious diagnosis such as cancer, harder knowing it is terminal. But living with the knowledge that someone misread your x-rays makes an already difficult situation even more so. This man will never know the results of this lawsuit because the cancer took his life before an outcome was determined. This man’s family has suffered the loss of a loved one, the loss of his income, and is left only with memories and final medical and funeral expenses. Proper diagnosis would have, at least, allowed for proper, life-sustaining treatment and/or after-life planning.
The jury was powerless to assist in prolonging or sustaining the unfortunate man’s life; he was already gone when they rendered their justice. But, they were certainly able to assist in after-life provisions and they were certainly able to send a message to those who misdiagnosed this man in this case, and those who would misdiagnose future patients. Lawsuits and juries save future lives; they make all of us just a little bit safer.
Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by plaintiffs involved in pending, personal injury litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.