Failure to Diagnose Cancer Could Be a Type of Medical Malpractice
The ability to properly treat cancer often depends on diagnosing it in its early stages. If doctors fail to diagnose cancer in a patient in a timely manner or at all, it could constitute medical malpractice, depending on the circumstances.
A doctor has an implied duty of care to provide a quality of treatment consistent with what would be expected of a reasonably competent healthcare professional with his or her same level of education and training. When that duty of care is breached, the doctor could be negligent. For plaintiffs to be successful in a malpractice claim related to a failure to diagnose, they must be able to prove three simple elements:
- The plaintiff had a doctor-patient relationship with the physician in question at the time the alleged diagnosis error occurred.
- The error the physician committed was the result of negligence.
- The plaintiff suffered some type of damage due to this negligence.
Proving that the error was in fact caused by a doctor’s negligence is often the most challenging aspect of a misdiagnosis case. Doctors typically list all of the possible medical conditions patients could be suffering from based on their symptoms, and then conduct tests to rule out some of these possibilities until they can reach a definitive conclusion. A physician could, for example, be negligent if he or she failed to properly conduct or order a test, or if there was a failure to recognize the urgency of a specific medical problem.
Diagnosis errors can be extremely dangerous, especially when it comes to cancer. Certain types of cancer, such as breast cancer or testicular cancer, may be treatable if caught early, so the timing and accuracy of a diagnosis is important.