Medical Malpractice: Delayed Diagnosis

Posted on November 22, 2011 at 10:47am by

Unfortunately, doctors sometimes make mistakes. Medical errors can be costly to patients…even deadly. When negligence is to blame for a medical mistake, the patient and his or her family may be entitled to compensation under medical malpractice law. One type of medical error that generally falls under the category of medical malpractice is delayed diagnosis. A patient’s prognosis can be adversely affected if a diagnosis comes too late…or not at all. In cases of delayed diagnosis, an experienced Atlantic City injury attorney may be able to help.

HIV Patients Being Diagnosed Too Late

According to research, approximately one-third of patients diagnosed with HIV are diagnosed so late that their illness progresses to AIDS within one year. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that about 236,400 of the 1.1 million people in the U.S. infected with HIV have not been diagnosed. The states with the highest incidence of late HIV diagnoses, according to a USA Today analysis of CDC data, are: Florida, New York, Texas, Georgia and New Jersey.

According to a fact sheet by AIDSinfo, a service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, treatment with antiretroviral therapy (ART) helps prevent HIV from advancing to AIDS and, while it cannot cure the disease, allows people with HIV to live longer and healthier lives. So, the sooner a patient is diagnosed with HIV, the sooner he or she can begin ART treatment, thus improving his or her prognosis. On the other hand, the later a patient is diagnosed with HIV, the further along the disease may have progressed, thus adversely affecting his or her prognosis. Because a person’s life expectancy is significantly reduced once the disease progresses to AIDS, it is important that healthcare providers diagnose HIV early. When negligence results in delayed diagnosis — that is, when another doctor could have reasonably diagnosed the condition earlier — a patient may have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Jim Curran, dean of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta, was quoted by USA Today as saying:”There are tens of thousands of people in the U.S. who are diagnosed [with HIV] late, sometimes too late to save their lives, and certainly too late to help them avoid transmission to others.” Given recent research by the National Institutes of Health that indicates HIV therapy cuts the risk of transmitting the disease to a sexual partner by 96 percent, early diagnosis of HIV not only improves the prognosis for the patient, but also reduces the risk for any sexual partners of the patient. Doctors must take certain steps when attempting to diagnose a patient, and they are supposed to rule out the most severe possibilities first. If a healthcare provider fails to properly diagnose a patient within a reasonable amount of time, the patient may have a medical malpractice claim.

Pancreatic Cancer Patients Experiencing a Delay in Diagnosis

Research presented at the 2009 Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium showed that in cases of pancreatic cancer, which has the lowest survival rate of all major cancers, it is not uncommon for patients to experience a delay in diagnosis of six or more months after they start showing symptoms. Pancreatic cancer patients with operable tumors have a median survival rate of 16 to 22 months; for patients with advanced tumors, that rate drops to nine to 14 months; and in cases where the cancer has metastasized, the patient’s survival rate is just six to eight months. With those survival rates, a delay in diagnosis of six or more months can mean the difference between having a couple of years to enjoy or only a few short months to get your affairs in order.

Patients who experience a delay in diagnosis and suspect that negligence may be to blame can contact a qualified Atlantic City injury lawyer to have their case evaluated and to learn about their legal rights.