Most people trust the advice of their doctors. They have a right to rely on their knowledge and skill. That, after all, is what medical licensing is about. But what happens when a diagnosis is wrong or delayed because an important test was never done or misread?
Perhaps your sample was mixed up with someone else’s or contaminated in the lab. Maybe the results were lost or the doctor simply never followed up to see them. What if a radiologist just misread the films? A lot of things can go wrong.
When a patient is harmed because a doctor, laboratory, or hospital is negligent in interpreting test results or in diagnosing an illness or injury, the patient and family have a legal right to recover compensation. Medical malpractice lawsuits are an essential way of protecting patients from careless and avoidable mistakes and, where possible, making patients whole again.
Misread Test Results
Doctors rely heavily on tests of blood, urine, and saliva, as well as EKGs, X-rays, CT and MRI scans, to detect a wide range of conditions, such as:
- Blood abnormalities;
- The presence of drugs or alcohol in a person’s body;
- Cardiovascular disease;
- Diseases such as influenza, diabetes, HIV/AIDS; and
- Kidney, liver, and thyroid function.
But even appropriate and correctly performed tests do not interpret themselves. That requires human intervention, often at several levels, and that is where things may go seriously wrong. Negligent errors are more common than most people realize. Recent statistics suggest, for example, that nearly a third of radiologists are sued for medical malpractice at some point in their careers. The rate of error is especially high among those who read and interpret relatively few tests.
Three Kinds of Misread Test Result Errors
Experts who study and analyze interpretation errors categorize them in three ways: knowledge errors, perception errors, and communication errors.
A knowledge error might occur when a doctor or radiologist is simply insufficiently educated about a disease or the significance of a particular test result.
In New York, doctors are held to a particular standard of care. A doctor who holds himself out as an oncologist, for example, is required to have the knowledge and skill that a reasonable cancer doctor would have, not the standard of a general practitioner.
The other touchstone is that doctors have to stay up-to-date with changes and advances in medical science. Their education must continue long after medical school. They must read current journals and go to educational conferences in order to stay current. The standards for professional knowledge change. The protocols for diagnosing and treating AIDS, for example, are light years away from what they were 30 years ago. Doctors are held to the standards of today, not when they first began to practice.
A perception error happens when the person reviewing the test simply does not see something. Was there a shadow on that X-ray? Here, again, the standard is not perfection or omniscience, but what a reasonably prudent physician should have seen.
A communication error is, in some ways, the most shocking of all. If the radiologist reported an abnormality on the film, but the treating doctor never read the report, never turned to page two to get the details, or never reported the findings to the patient, the patient is left completely in the dark. Uninformed and helpless, he or she never has a chance to make a sound healthcare decision.
Delayed Diagnosis Due To Misread Test Results
These are linked problems, of course. But bungling the test results is not the only reason for a delayed diagnosis. Misdiagnosing or failing to diagnose a medical condition can have serious consequences. Patients may receive the wrong treatment or the wrong medication. It can be life-threatening, especially for those suffering from cancer or heart disease, or people who have sustained serious injuries. Delaying appropriate treatment is often the same as denying appropriate treatment. As part of a delayed diagnosis, several other things can happen, including the failure to recognize a related complication or disease.
Delayed Diagnosis in the Emergency Room
The incidence of misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis is much higher in emergency room settings. Increased time pressure means less time to engage in the traditional practice of differential diagnoses – the process through which clinicians list all possible causes of an illness and then test to eliminate possibilities. Furthermore, the severe nature of many emergency room illnesses and injuries means that a missed or incorrect diagnosis is more likely to cause harm to the patient.
Contact Our NYC Misread Test Results Attorney
If you or a loved one has suffered because of misread test results and/or a delayed diagnosis, Scaffidi & Associates is here to help. We have extensive experience in putting together what may be a complicated medical malpractice claim. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.