Delayed diagnosis of cancer
- Credit: Archant
Legally Speaking with Ashton KCJ
If you, or a family member, are diagnosed with cancer, your world may be thrown into turmoil. Worse, sometimes the diagnosis should have been made much earlier.
When errors occur, and diagnosis is delayed as a result, the consequences can be disastrous and sometimes fatal.
Approximately 10% of medical injury claims arise from misdiagnosis. More worryingly, there are many more mistakes being made than claims being brought. In some cases this is because, fortunately, the delay has not changed the long-term outcome. In others, it is because people who could pursue a claim never do.
A delayed cancer diagnosis can be life-changing or life-threatening. Factors such as the type of cancer and period of delay in diagnosis will play a vital role in the exact consequences suffered by any individual patient. Every case is different.
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Our role as clinical negligence specialists is to identify whether or not the delay in diagnosis was negligent. For instance, were there any factors which made the diagnosis difficult such as unusual presentation of symptoms? We do this by obtaining and reviewing a patient’s medical records and, where necessary, obtaining independent expert evidence from a clinician in the same specialist field as the doctor responsible for the delay. This ensures that the doctor’s actions are judged properly, by his peers.
If this evidence suggests there was unreasonable delay in diagnosis we will then investigate what the effect of that delay has been on the patient and progression of the disease. For instance, have they needed more invasive treatment, or is their life expectancy shorter? This is complex and requires expert independent opinion.
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We can never put right what has happened. However, if there has been negligence, we will then look to obtain compensation to place the patient in the same financial position they would have been in if the negligence had not occurred. This may include loss of earnings and pension loss, the cost of care provided by family members or commercial carers and in more severe cases, housing adaptations, aids and equipment. If the delayed diagnosis has resulted in a patient’s death we will assist the dependents to bring a claim.
Head of Medical Injury
T: 01842 768736