A New Jersey man in his mid-60s was scheduled to undergo a cardiac catheterization procedure. His cardiologist required him to have a chest x-ray before the procedure was done (a standard practice). The chest x-ray was taken; the x-ray report received by the cardiologist’s office indicated a 2.5 cm mass on his left lung and recommended a follow-up CT scan.
Unfortunately for the man, neither the cardiologist nor his office advised the man at that time about the suspicious x-ray findings or the recommendation for a CT scan.
About 20 months later, the man went to his primary care physician due to a nagging cough. A chest x-ray was ordered at that time and the man was requested to provide prior chest x-rays for comparison purposes. The man went to the cardiologist’s office to obtain his prior chest x-ray and learned for the first time that the prior chest x-ray indicated a mass on his left lung.
A month later, the man had surgery to remove his left lung. The pathology report indicated that he had squamous cell carcinoma in the upper lobe of his left lung. The man’s medical malpractice claim alleged that the delay in diagnosis caused the mass to double in size (from Stage IA to Stage IIB) and the delay reduced his chance of survival from seventy percent to thirty five percent.
The man settled his medical malpractice case for $500,000 (there had not been a recurrence of his cancer as of the time of the settlement and the treatment for his lung cancer (surgery and subsequent chemotherapy) would have been the same if the cancer had been diagnosed earlier).
This medical malpractice case is an example of why it is so important that the results of medical testing (including but not limited to lab results and x-ray reports) be timely received by the requesting medical provider and that the results of all testing, whether “good” or “bad,” be promptly and fully disclosed to the patient. The simple medical mistake of filing a medical test report received from an outside source in a patient’s file without the requesting medical provider being advised of the findings can result in serious injuries or death to the patient. To reduce the chances of a medical error, most medical offices require that the ordering physician or other designated medical provider “sign off” on the report, indicating that the results were reviewed.
Patients should also take responsibility for their own medical care and treatment by following up with their medical providers for the results of their medical testing. As the New Jersey man learned the hard way, “no news” is not necessarily “good news.” While it is human nature to want to avoid bad news, we must learn to overcome our tendency to hide our heads in the sand when the information could be unwanted or worse, and we must become our own health care advocates by inquiring about medical test results if we have not been contacted about the results in a reasonable period of time.
If you have been harmed by the failure of a doctor or other health care provider to timely and fully advise you about information relevant to your health, you should consult with a medical malpractice attorney to be advised of your legal rights in the matter. You may visit our website or telephone us toll free at 800-295-3959 to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your state who may be able to help investigate your possible medical malpractice claim and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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