Missed or Delayed Diagnoses - Cancer Malpractice
Medical errors involving cancer cases are relatively common, whether missed or delayed diagnosis of the disease or, as in a recently publicized Philadelphia case, botched surgeries by doctors and their staffs. Such incidents of medical malpractice can lead to serious injury and death.
A missed or delayed diagnosis of cancer can lead to a spread of the cancer, causing disfiguring surgery, unnecessary chemotherapy and radiation therapy. One study estimated that 128,000 Americans annually are injured because of a cancer misdiagnosis, with many of them dying.
In some cases, environmental causes – such as asbestos exposure leading to mesothelioma – or manufactured products can be suspected carcinogens. For instance, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in January 2011 announced a possible link between a rare type of cancer called anaplastic large cell lymphoma, or ALCL, and saline and silicone gel-filled breast implants. (Learn more)
If you or a loved one were the victim of medical malpractice involving a cancer case, you may want to call one of our cancer attorneys for a free evaluation of your case.
In one highly publicized medical malpractice case, it was revealed that at least 92 surgical procedures involving prostate cancer, known as brachytherapy, were botched at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Philadelphia. (Read story)
The series of medical errors at the Philadelphia VA hospital, widely reported in June 2009, included a surgeon mistakenly implanting radioactive “seeds” not in cancerous prostates but in healthy organs, including patients’ bladders and rectums. In other cases the doses of radiation were either too high or too low.
A study reported in the online journal Cancer concluded that roughly 12 percent of cancer patients in the United States are initially misdiagnosed. It was this study that estimated that 128,000 people each year suffer some degree of "harm," ranging from having to undergo a second round of tests to consequences that are fatal.
Dr. Stephen S. Raab, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine who authored the study, said: "I want to make clear that the major consequence is not that patients unnecessarily have organs removed or have a false diagnosis of cancer, but rather that they have cancer and it is not diagnosed."
The study concluded that misdiagnoses were caused by improper blood and tissue sampling and inaccurate reading of laboratory test results. Breast and colon cancer are among the more common forms of cancer that go undetected because of error.
A later study found that women older than 70 are "under-diagnosed, under-staged, and under-treated" for cancer compared with younger women. Women in the older age group make up one-third of all breast cancer patients.
Kline & Specter, PC, a law firm with more than 35 attorneys – several of them also highly skilled doctors – has broad experience and success in litigating cancer cases, winning substantial jury verdicts and settlements in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburban counties.
Breast Cancer. In one case tried by Tom Kline, a jury in Lehigh County awarded $33.1 million to a woman whose doctor and a company that provided mammography services failed to timely diagnose her breast cancer. She died as a result. (See the Welteroth Case.)
In a 2003 trial later featured on ABC’s Nightline, Kline won a $3 million verdict for the family of a woman, Dagmar Lackman, who died because of a delayed breast cancer diagnosis.
Colon Cancer. In a colon cancer case, the law firm won a verdict of $8.25 million in Delaware County Court for a man whose cancer was initially missed, leading to his death.
In another case, Kline & Specter reached a settlement on behalf of the family of Stephen Little, the former WBA super middleweight champion, who died of cancer after a misdiagnosis led to a 10-month delay in treating his colon cancer. Little, of Reading, married and the father of six, died at age 34.
Our Commitment to Improving Safety
At Kline & Specter, we are committed to improving safety and preventing other people from suffering the harms that our clients have endured. An example of this can be seen with the case of Lawrence Strange, a patient whom hospital staff failed to inform about a nodule found on his lung. Within two years, Strange was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer and he died six weeks later. Kline & Specter obtained a substantial confidential monetary settlement for his family but did not stop there. As part of the settlement, the hospital agreed to hold grand rounds to educate staff on the importance of reviewing files and informing patients of the nature of their illnesses as quickly as possible, with no delay in diagnosis. In addition, the hospital held a formal lecture in honor of Strange. The lecture, to some 40 doctors, stressed the importance of various hospital protocols, including proper communication among doctors and staff, documentation and follow-up of test results. Click here to see safety improvements obtained by Kline & Specter attorneys in other cases.
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