Last summer, 75-year-old Karel Pekarek visited two British Columbia emergency rooms over five days complaining of severe stomach pain. In both events, doctors ordered blood tests, diagnosed him with constipation, suggested laxatives, and sent him home. It wasn’t until late July, following a third emergency room visit, that the truth was revealed: Pekarek was suffering from Stage 4 cancer in his gall bladder and liver, a sickness too advanced to be treated. Emergency room doctors had failed to properly diagnose him; he was given a maximum of a year to live.

As every medical malpractice lawyer knows, missed and delayed diagnoses are at the heart of most negligence and malpractice lawsuits. CBC News British Columbia reported in December that 10 to 15 per cent of Canadian patients may be misdiagnosed, and that some experts believe the number is much higher.

Not every misdiagnosis is grounds for a personal injury claim. Karel Pekarek passed away in October. An earlier diagnosis may not have saved his life, but it could have allowed him to spend his final months more comfortably.

According to the CBC, Perkarek was largely bedridden and ‘wracked by nausea’ during the summer. When he was able to leave his room, he was unable to stand and forced to use a wheelchair. Perkarek’s family acknowledged to the CBC that an ‘accurate diagnosis may not have saved Karel’s life given the advanced stage of his illness. But they wish there had been an opportunity to manage his suffering.”

“He had a very good life,” his daughter said, “… I just wish the end of it wasn’t so painful.”

When a medical malpractice lawyer accepts a case, he or she must be able to prove that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care; that the defendant failed to provide that duty of care; that the plaintiff incurred demonstrable damages; that the failure to provide the duty of care was the proximate cause of the damages; and that the damages were reasonably foreseeable. While Pekarek’s case may not be enough to bring a successful medical malpractice claim, it clearly illustrates the dangers associated with delayed diagnoses. Even though Pekarek’s cancer was terminal, and even though the delay likely did not affect his prognosis, he and his family experienced pain, suffering, and heartbreak as a result of the delay.

If you or a member of your family has been injured as a result of a medical practitioner’s failure to promptly and accurately diagnose a condition, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. You may be entitled to financial compensation.


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Greg Neinstein