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Delayed Diagnosis Is Grounds for Medical Malpractice Claim

There are true stories of surgeries performed on the wrong organ, surgical equipment left inside a patient, and incorrect medications or dosages given to a patient.

Medical malpractice can take many forms, including taking no action. A delayed or missed diagnosis can greatly impact the medical outcome. A recent court case serves as an example.

A Pennsylvania jury awarded an $18 million victory to a woman whose breast cancer went undetected because her health care provider failed to order appropriate medical tests.

Nurse Practitioner Makes Assumptions

In March 2018, a then-22-year-old woman went to see a nurse practitioner after discovering a small lump in her right breast. Because breast cancer is rare for a woman of that age, the nurse practitioner told her the lump was benign and that she should not worry. Still concerned, the young woman returned to the nurse practitioner a few weeks later and was told the same thing as before.

There were no confirming tests or other follow-up protocols.

So-Called Benign Lump Was Cancer

The lump grew to be the size of a golf ball over the course of nine months. Other symptoms surfaced: a tingling sensation in her breast and underarm and a burning sensation at the lump. She returned to the same medical office, but this time saw a physician. An ultrasound was ordered.

The woman was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. The delay in discovering cancer greatly hurt her prognosis.

Delayed Diagnosis Leads to Cancer Spread

The lump was surgically removed. The mass had grown from 1.5 centimeters to 4 centimeters between March and December. Post-surgery pathology reports returned the news that the problem was not eradicated. The cancer had spread to three lymph nodes. She then had a bilateral mastectomy.

Life Expectancy Is Reduced

Had tests been ordered when the woman first went to the doctor, cancer could have been discovered earlier. A lumpectomy instead of a double mastectomy might have been possible. The delay also reduced her life expectancy by 10 to 15 years.

The nurse practitioner twice failed to appropriately address the needs of her patient, resulting in a significantly worse outcome.

Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

The woman filed a lawsuit against Axia Women’s Health in December 2019. After a two-week trial, the Chester County jury returned with its verdict in less than two hours.

On July 22, 2022, the jury said that the nurse practitioner had acted negligently by not ordering follow-up tests after seeing the plaintiff twice in March 2018 and awarded the plaintiff $18 million.

Delayed Diagnosis as Grounds for a Lawsuit

Not every delayed diagnosis is grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit in Massachusetts. There are circumstances when doctors or other health care providers listen to their patients, follow the symptoms, and order appropriate tests. Some diseases and conditions are similar and can take time to distinguish and may not be connected to any kind of negligence.

Medical malpractice is possible if the following is true:

  • The health care professional (defendant) was negligent
  • The negligence was the cause of injury or harm to the patient (plaintiff)
  • The injury or harm resulted in damages for the plaintiff

Most medical malpractice lawsuits must be filed within three years of the injury or discovery of the injury.

Speak with an experienced attorney at Percy Law Group, PC about your case. We offer free consultations to evaluate whether there are grounds to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. Contact us online or call (508) 206-9900.