Medical malpractice and hospital malpractice cases are often very complex cases for two reasons. First, medical experts are required in these cases. That’s because under Pennsylvania medical malpractice law, individuals who bring a medical negligence claim against a hospital, doctor, surgeon, etc., are required to present testimony of a medical expert. Oftentimes, more than one expert is needed. The cost to hire multiple medical experts can easily exceed $50,000 or more, and that does not include trial testimony costs.
Second, the medicine itself is often complex. Surgical procedures, diagnostic tests, treatments, medical devices/implants, etc., are often at issue in these cases. This is why many attorneys do not handle medical malpractice cases. It’s not uncommon for injury attorneys to refer these cases to other attorneys, depending on the complexity of a given case.
Related: Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Law – The Statute of Limitations in Surgical Error Cases
Delay in Diagnosis Made a Difference in the Outcome
In any misdiagnosis case, the key is whether the delay or mistake in diagnosis made a difference in the patient’s outcome. Not every case of misdiagnosis will be actionable. For example, a patient develops a post-op infection, which is not diagnosed for 24 hours. Fortunately, the infection is caught in time and the patient receives a course of antibiotics and recovers. The treatment outcome is the same and is not impacted in any way by the delay in diagnosis. This is a fairly simple example showing how a delay in diagnosis made no difference in the overall outcome. Let’s change the example and say that the infection is not diagnosed for three days, and the patient dies as a result of a massive infection, sepsis. In this situation, the delay in diagnosis was fatal. Therefore, the surviving family members would have an actionable medical negligence claim.
In this article, we’ll be discussing pain and suffering in the context of a misdiagnosis case, using an example where a medical doctor fails to diagnosis cancer and mistakenly diagnoses an infection instead.
A 65 year old patient sees her doctor, complaining of weight loss, fatigue, fever and other symptoms. The doctor diagnoses a viral infection. Over the course of the next month, the patient does not feel better and returns to her doctor. A lab test reveals very high levels of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), which is often elevated in cases of cancer. However, the doctor fails to review the lab results and instead notes that everything looks normal. One year later, the patient is hospitalized and diagnosed with an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma which has spread to the patient’s lungs.
Significant, Negative Impact on Treatment Outcomes
In this instance, a medical expert would be needed to provide an opinion on the treatment outcomes and whether they were negatively impacted by the delay in diagnosis. If the cancer had been diagnosed a year prior, how would the treatment course have differed? Did the delay in diagnosis have a negative impact on the patient’s survival rate?
Given the complexity of medical malpractice cases in Pennsylvania, it’s no wonder that over the last decade, the number of medical malpractice lawsuits has gradually decreased. Simply put, it’s often too costly and risky to bring these cases. That’s why the pain and suffering damages claim must be serious enough to justify bringing a lawsuit.
Recent Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Case Result: $3 million – Surgical infection, medical malpractice case in Philadelphia
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Lawyers
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