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Cancer misdiagnosis can have devastating consequences

Apr 25, 2018 | Failure to Diagnose

It is estimated that less than 2 percent of potential cancer patients in New York and across the U.S. receive incorrect test results from a hospital pathology lab. While this number is relatively low, the consequences of such mistakes can be devastating for the patients involved.

According to a national study of 6,000 cancer patients conducted by Johns Hopkins Hospital, around 1 in every 71 histopathology test results is wrong. Meanwhile, a Medicare investigation found that approximately 1.7 percent of cancer lab results at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center could be incorrect. Other studies have estimated that the overall U.S. error rate for cancer lab tests could be closer to 10 percent.

When cancer patients are misdiagnosed, there is great potential for harm. For example, patients who are incorrectly told that they do not have cancer may delay life-saving treatment until it is too late. On the other hand, patients who are wrongly diagnosed with cancer may unnecessarily undergo aggressive treatments, such as surgery, which could leave their bodies permanently altered. Health care advocates recommend that all cancer patients get a second opinion before choosing a treatment plan.

A doctor’s failure to diagnose cancer could cause a patient irreparable harm. When this happens, the misdiagnosed patient has the right to file a medical malpractice claim against all parties who may have contributed to the error, including the doctor, hospital and medical lab. If the lawsuit is successful, the patient could receive a settlement that covers medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages and other losses related to the misdiagnosis.

Source: Journal Now, "Error rate for cancer test results slim, but can it be devastating for patients", Richard Craver, April 22, 2018