Medical errors cause roughly 28,000 deaths every year in Canada, according to the Canadian Patient Safety Institute (CPSI). The most common errors involve medication: improper doses, improper medication types, and prescriptions that ignore patient allergies. Missed and delayed diagnoses are also fairly common; when they involve a life-threatening condition such as cancer or a dangerous infection, the results can be catastrophic. When a missed or delayed diagnosis affects your family, a medical malpractice lawyer can help.
A recent article published by Healthing.ca underscored the danger of delayed cancer diagnoses. Robin McGee of Nova Scotia was 46 when she visited her doctor about rectal bleeding. She told the doctor that she had a family history of colorectal cancer; the doctor blamed the bleeding on a bad reaction to antibiotics.
McGee’s symptoms briefly disappeared, and then returned much stronger in the following weeks. She sought a second opinion. Then a third, and then a fourth. All in all, it took two years for her symptoms to be properly identified as colorectal cancer. Because the disease was identified at a late stage, treatment required chemotherapy, radiation, and two abdominal operations.
That wasn’t McGee’s only encounter with delayed diagnosis. Years later, she visited a radiologist for a CT scan related to elevated blood levels. The radiologist misread the results and failed to identify a two-centimetre malignant tumour. Her symptoms persisted. It took six months to receive another CT scan. In that time, the tumour grew to 10 centimetres and became inoperable. The delayed diagnosis may have cost her her life.
“The cascade of errors has led to a situation that’s impossible to survive,” McGee told Healthing.ca.
Missed and delayed diagnoses are caused by a variety of factors. Some rare conditions are, by nature, difficult to identify. At times, doctors also have difficulty diagnosing conditions that present in uncommon ways or appear in unusual patients.
“If you don’t do the differential diagnosis part properly, you keep trying to prove yourself right,” Neinstein medical malpractice lawyer Daniela Pacheco told Healthing.ca. “What ends up happening is that cognitively, physicians or healthcare professionals will ignore information [as they go down the road] that could have tipped them off to a new direction or investigation.”
McGee urged patients to be aware that medical errors can occur and foster a “healthy skepticism about their physician’s judgement.”
“I’m not telling people not to trust their doctors,” she said, “but that they need to be open to the idea that [the] doctors can make a mistake.”
If you’ve been injured in a medical setting, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with an experience medical malpractice lawyer.