Did Someone Misread Test Results?
Five years ago, a woman went to the hospital with flu symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. In reality, she was suffering from a condition called mesenteric ischemia, which blocked blood flow to her intestines.
According to the lawsuit her family filed after her death, her exam, lab results, and X-rays should have revealed what was wrong.
However, “We provided evidence that this doctor and those working under his supervision over the course of a two-week hospital stay, simply missed or ignored signs of a life-threatening illness,” the family’s wrongful death attorney said via written statement. “[B]y the time [she] was finally seen by a surgeon, she could not be saved.”
Her family sued the hospitalist who consulted specialists while caring for her, the facility, a radiologist, and a diagnostic services facility. August 19, 2014, after a seven-day trial, goupstate.com reported that jurors awarded the woman’s family $2 million in damages. The amount included $500,000 in punitive damages, which are rarely awarded but are intended to punish the defendant for a mistake that should not have been committed.
Radiologists Often Sued for Misdiagnosis
Radiologists’ main duty is to interpret X-rays, such as CT scans, and tell doctors what they find, a doctor told Medscape in 2013. But they are the sixth most likely specialist to be sued for medical malpractice, the site stated.
In looking at those who’d been sued at least once, “the most common claims were for failure to diagnose (39.07 per 1000 person-years). The second most common claims were for procedural complications (4.64 per 1000 person-years),” Medscape said. Breast cancer misdiagnosis was the most common mistake.
Who’s Responsible for the Misdiagnosis — the Doctor or the Radiologist?
It’s important to consult a medical malpractice attorney before filing your claim. He or she can determine who to hold accountable for the poor prognosis or death. For instance, in 2013, hamptonroads.com reported that a young couple lost their baby when a surgeon neglected to review an ultrasound before what was first assumed to be a cystic mass and then a molar pregnancy but turned out to be a healthy fetus.
According to the article, a midwife and an ob-gyn had performed two ultrasounds but could neither hear a heartbeat nor see the baby, so they sent the patient for a third, more comprehensive ultrasound.
“This one took much longer than the first two, and the technician took many images,” Hampton Roads said. Afterward, the technician asked the patient why she’d needed the test. When she explained, the technician said she needed to go back to the doctor, who should review the ultrasound results before removing the mass.
She did as instructed, and the doctor said her blood work showed a molar pregnancy and that he could squeeze her in for surgery during his usual lunch hour.
The next day, the hospital called the couple to come in and discuss the pathology report, which revealed zero complications.
The doctor allegedly knew nothing about the third ultrasound, the couple’s $1.7 million claim against the military hospital stated. In this case, they sued the facility per the Federal Tort Claims Act.
Also, as attorney Christopher Mellino told the Cleveland Plain Dealer in October 1999, “a faceless corporation makes a less sympathetic defendant than a lone doctor.” In the case he was quoted about, he and his former partner won a $4.1 million verdict for failure to diagnose cancer.
If you have questions about a delayed diagnosis, attorney Chris Mellino welcomes you to contact our Cleveland office for a free consultation before Ohio’s statute of limitations expires on your potential claim. You may also download Chris’ free, easy-to-read guide, Your Ohio Medical Malpractice Questions Answered, read testimonials, and learn about previous case results.