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Lab Results Malpractice by Medical Providers

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Lab Results Malpractice by Medical Providers

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When we see our doctors for regular checkups (and all of us should) we are accustomed to having the doctor order routine lab tests to screen for any unknown problems, as well as scheduling specific tests that might be related to an ongoing health condition or to some new and unidentified symptom that is being experienced. We are just as accustomed to getting a call or message from the doctor in a week or two giving us the results of those tests.

Physician’s Failure to Provide Lab Test Results

Unfortunately, those test results can sometimes get “lost in the process,” with the results not being communicated to us. Most of the time, this can be resolved with just a phone call to the doctor or the lab to prompt them for the results, but sometimes the delay or complete loss of test results can result in a delay in treatment that can have serious, even deadly results. Lab results malpractice is a category of medical malpractice in which a doctor, testing lab, or other medical provider has failed to meet an appropriate standard of care in which missing or delayed lab results result in significant, adverse consequences to the patient.

An experienced personal injury attorney can help a victim of lab results malpractice gain compensation for the serious damages that may result to them and/or their family. Reach out to us at (916) 921-6400. It is always confidential and free to call and speak to our attorney.

What Routine Lab Results Can Reveal

Some routine medical screening may occur as early as childhood, such as testing for eyesight and hearing problems, but it becomes more and more common as patients become older. Screening in middle age and older years is primarily looking for diseases such as cancer or for the development of chronic problems like adult-onset diabetes.

Annually in the United States, about 1.6 million patients are diagnosed with cancer, and about 600,000 die from cancer according to the Centers for Disease Control. Many cancers are treatable, with more and more effective therapies being developed every year, and the earlier that cancer is diagnosed, the more likely that it can be successfully treated. Among cancers, the primary ones for which routine screening tests are most often used are:

  • Colorectal cancers.
  • Lung cancers.
  • Breast cancers.
  • Cervical cancers.
  • Prostate cancers.
Delayed Treatment and Death from Failure to Communicate Lab Results

Routine lab tests for cancers are hoping to catch disease development during what doctors refer to as the “sojourn period” or “dwell time” — this is the time between when cancer first develops to the point of being detectable and the time when it has grown to the point of causing actual physical symptoms that would prompt a patient to actively seek medical care.

One medical study looked at several types of cancers and published a table showing the median number of years it took for each type of cancer to progress onward through Stage I, Stage II, and Stage III. The table showed very considerable differences in growth time between different cancers, ranging from the slowest (prostate cancers) to the most aggressive (pancreas cancer):

  • Prostate cancer — 7 years median time in Stage I
  • Thyroid cancer — 5.5 years median time in Stage I
  • Uterine cancer — 4 years median time in Stage I
  • Lymphoma — 4 years median time in Stage I
  • Colon cancer — 3 years median time in Stage I
  • Lung cancer — 2 years median time in Stage I
  • Pancreatic cancer — less than 1 year median time in Stage I
Lab Results Malpractice in Case of Delayed Treatment for Prostate Cancer

The situation of one 55-year-old man living in New Mexico illustrates what the results can be from delayed communication of lab test results. The gentleman had a family history of prostate cancer on his father’s side of the family, and one of the routine tests ordered by his doctor at an annual checkup was a blood test to screen for prostate cancers. This is a common test for men as they get older, and it checks for an elevated level of “prostate specific antigen” or “PSA” — while there may be various reasons for an elevated PSA level, the higher the test result, the more likely there is a prostate problem that needs to be further investigated.

Unfortunately, this patient’s prostate test results were never communicated to him, and he mistakenly assumed that “no news was good news” and that the results must have been normal. Another year passed, and another routine lab test was ordered, and this one — just like the first one that was miscommunicated — showed a significantly elevated PSA level. A biopsy confirmed prostate cancer, and the gentleman was dead less than two years later. A full year’s time was lost, during which earlier treatment could have significantly improved the patient’s likelihood of survival, all because the earlier test had not been communicated and discussed with the patient by his doctor.

California Malpractice Lawsuits for Physician Delayed Lab Results

When considering a personal injury claim for medical malpractice related to delayed or miscommunicated lab results there are several questions that an experienced personal injury attorney will focus upon:

  • Were there actual damages resulting from the delayed or miscommunicated lab results? That is, did the communication failure cause the patient to experience symptoms and/or disease progression that would not otherwise have been experienced.
  • What is the standard of care for the physician for documenting and following up on lab orders and results?
  • What is the standard of care for the physician to report abnormal lab results and to advise a patient with abnormal lab results as to treatment options, additional testing, etc.?

These are complex questions, and often can only be properly answered by a thorough review of the medical treatment and records, as well as consultation with experts who are familiar with the “standard of care” — the practices and quality level of service to which medical providers are held. An experienced personal injury attorney will have the skills, experience, and resources necessary to help guide clients through these complex cases.

View this video from the American Cancer Society describing the reasons why cancer screening guidelines often change and why it’s important to regularly discuss screenings with our physicians:

Sacramento Lab Results Malpractice Lawyer

Hello, my name is Ed Smith, and I am a Sacramento Medical Malpractice Lawyer. Hopefully, we can all trust our doctors to provide the level of care that they should, because we are actually placing our health and our lives in their hands. Unfortunately, medical providers may sometimes fail to meet the minimum standard of care that they should provide for their patients, and occasionally these failures have devastating consequences. When that occurs, an experienced medical malpractice lawyer can help victims and their families achieve just compensation for the often significant damages they suffer. If you or someone in your family has been seriously harmed due to lab results malpractice or other medical malpractice, please contact us today at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 for free and friendly advice. You can also reach us with a submission to our online contact form.

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Image by Belova59 from Pixabay

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