Cancer patients in California often have better outcomes if their disease is detected at an early stage. When a cancer diagnosis is delayed, the patient might have lost an opportunity to begin fighting the disease early. However, a cancer misdiagnosis that is caused by a delay is not medical malpractice in every case.
When is a delayed cancer diagnosis considered malpractice?
A patient who never saw a doctor until they developed stage-4 cancer would probably not be able to sue for a delayed diagnosis. However, a patient who had been seeing a doctor about symptoms for years before being diagnosed with cancer may have a case.
Delayed diagnosis is considered malpractice if it was the result of a doctor’s negligence. A doctor may be found negligent if they evaluated a patient’s symptoms but failed to rule out likely causes of these symptoms using available methods. In a malpractice case, a doctor’s actions will be compared to the actions that a similar doctor is likely to have taken in the same situation.
Did the doctor follow the standard of care?
If a doctor did not follow the requisite standard of care, the doctor could be found liable for a delayed cancer diagnosis. The medical standard of care is defined as the treatment that a similar doctor would have provided in a similar situation. Proving what a medical standard of care is in a particular situation usually requires expert testimony.
Victims should look into other causes of delayed diagnosis
A doctor’s negligence may not be the only cause of a delayed cancer diagnosis. In some cases, errors in laboratory testing can cause a disease to be misdiagnosed. While a doctor may not be liable for lab errors, the hospital where the lab mistakes were made could still be found negligent.