According to the Canadian Cancer Society, nearly 1 in 2 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer. The timing of a cancer diagnosis can make the difference between detecting the cancer when it is still possible to treat it effectively or surgically remove it, and when it is too late to do so. With many types of cancer, early detection is the key to treating or removing it and reducing the likelihood of it returning or spreading. If cancer is not diagnosed in time, or is misdiagnosed, it can lead to serious life-long implications or death, and can have a devastating impact on patients and their families. Depending on the circumstances, such a misdiagnosis can be grounds to file a medical malpractice claim.
Commonly Misdiagnosed Cancers
Some commonly misdiagnosed cancers include:
- Lung cancer;
- Breast cancer;
- Pancreatic cancer;
- Colorectal cancer; and
- Cervical cancer.
How Might Delayed Diagnosis Occur?
Imagine, for instance, a patient visits their doctor complaining of serious digestive issues, including diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping, and blood in their stool. The doctor eventually diagnoses the patient with irritable bowel syndrome and puts them on medication to control the condition. However, it turns out that the patient actually has colorectal cancer.
This could have been a situation in which the cancer could have been highly treatable if caught early. However, the doctor failed to consider that the patient may be suffering from cancer or failed to properly recognize the patient’s risk factors (family history of cancer), screen the patient for cancer (e.g. perform a colonoscopy), recognize the symptoms of cancer, order appropriate tests, and diagnose the cancer. In the intervening period, the patient’s cancer continued to develop, and got to the point where it was no longer easily treatable or was not treatable at all (e.g. it got to stage 4 cancer or metastasized).
The same goes for other types of cancer, such as breast cancer. In certain circumstances, if a doctor does not recognize the signs and symptoms of breast cancer (such as a breast lump), does not order follow-up tests such as a screening mammogram, breast ultrasound or breast biopsy, they may miss the crucial diagnosis of breast cancer.
The breast cancer patient may then have to face invasive medical procedures (e.g. a mastectomy/colectomy), radiation, chemotherapy, and months of pain and suffering. They may be unable to work, unable to care for their family, and unable to enjoy life as they previously did. They may ultimately succumb to their illness. All of this may be grounds to file a medical malpractice claim.
How to Establish Medical Malpractice in Situations Involving Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis
Medical malpractice claims can be made by patients or families of patients who are injured or otherwise negatively affected by a doctor, nurse, hospital worker, or other healthcare professional.
In general terms, in situations involving a misdiagnosis of cancer or a missed diagnosis of cancer, the person bringing the claim (i.e. the plaintiff) must satisfy the court that:
- The conduct of the medical professional in question fell below the standard of care that the patient was entitled to receive;
- That the negligence of the medical professional caused or contributed to the injury that was sustained (and ‘but for’ the negligence, the person would most likely not have sustained the injury for which compensation is sought); and
- The damages
In medical misdiagnosis cases, medical negligence means that a healthcare provider did not do something they ought to have done, as measured against the expected, reasonable treatment which should have been provided under the circumstances.
How can a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Help?
Medical malpractice claims can be lengthy and complex. Coping with the impact of a serious medical error can be extremely emotional and stressful as victims and their family members struggle to manage with their new reality.
At Sommers, Roth & Elmaleh, our compassionate and highly knowledgeable Toronto medical malpractice lawyers use our experience and knowledge to assist clients across Canada. We are committed to getting our injured clients and their loved ones the legal assistance and guidance that they need following a medical error, including misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose cancer. We work hard to secure financial assistance for the future of each of our clients. We take cases on a contingency basis only, ensuring that families can obtain the help they need, at the time that they need it most.
We are proud of the strong relationships we build with each of their clients, and our role as a support system for them. We keep the lines of communication at all times, answering questions regularly, and keeping clients apprised of the status of their claim and the progress made during the stages of litigation. In addition to handling the strictly legal aspects of the claim, we also handle all necessary paperwork, communication with medical professionals, and other relevant steps. Our goal is to make the process as stress-free for our clients as possible.
At Sommers Roth & Elmaleh we have been helping patients and families whose lives have been impacted by medical malpractice for more than 40 years. We have assisted clients in all over Ontario and from all across Canada, including Newfoundland, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. Call us at 1-416-961-1212 or contact us online for a free consultation.
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