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Medical Malpractice: Failure to Diagnose Colon Cancer

Failure to diagnose colon cancer

Colon cancer is typically a very serious form of cancer that requires treatment in a timely manner. When a failure to diagnose colon cancer occurs, a doctor may be responsible for wrongful death because the longer that colon cancer is allowed to linger in the body without treatment the more likely the person is to not survive. A person with stage IIA colon cancer has a five-year relative survival rate of approximately 87 percent compared to a person diagnosed with stage IIB cancer and a person with stage IIIA colon cancer has a five-year relative survival rate of approximately 89 percent compared to a person with metastatic or stage IV colon cancer that has only an 11 percent five-year relative survival rate.

The question is whether the doctor acted negligently in their failure to diagnose colon cancer. Did they behave differently than the standard of care expected of a competent physician would have under similar circumstances? If you believe that your loved one lost their life due to a failure to diagnose colon cancer, please contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. He or she will assess the circumstances around the death and discuss your legal rights. They may be able to fight for justice on your behalf by holding the negligent medical professional accountable through a settlement.

When is failure to diagnose colon cancer medical malpractice?

It is important to understand that a mistake or unsatisfactory outcome is not always medical malpractice; medical malpractice laws allow room for reasonable error even when the error causes harm. What the law does say though is that medical professionals owe their patients a “duty of care” to make reasonable, competent and skilled diagnosis and treatment decisions. Essentially, patients are entitled to receive a reasonable standard of care and when that standard is violated and causes harm to the patient, medical malpractice may have occurred.

The only way to know for sure whether you have a medical malpractice case is to speak to a medical malpractice lawyer who is familiar with the laws in your state.

What needs to be proved in a successful medical malpractice case?

In order to be a viable medical malpractice claim the following four elements must be present:

  1. The existence of a doctor-patient relationship.
  2. The doctor or other medical professional acted negligently in some way.
  3. The doctor’s negligence caused definite injury to the patient.
  4. The injury caused damages such as pain and suffering, lost wages, medical expenses, etc.

Looking for incompetent care in the differential diagnosis process in a failure to diagnose case

In order to determine whether a medical professional provided incompetent care in a failure to diagnose colon cancer case a medical malpractice attorney will look for negligence in the doctor’s diagnostic decision making process. In most healthcare settings, doctors use a method called “differential diagnosis” to choose the most probable diagnosis for a patient and decide on potential treatment options. In this process the physician is expected to review their patient’s medical history, lab tests, the symptoms described by the patient and clinical signs in order to create a list of possible diagnoses, most often ranked in terms of probability. If follow-up tests or a referral to a specialist to determine diagnosis are warranted then those actions would be part of a reasonable standard of care. Once all information is gathered the physician may add new diagnoses and rule out diagnoses that do not fit the symptoms until all diagnoses are ruled out but one.

When a physician violates their standard of care in diagnosing colon cancer the negligence is usually found in one of these ways:

  • The physician failed to include the right diagnosis in their differential diagnosis, but a reasonably competent doctor under similar circumstances would have.
  • The physician did include the correct diagnosis in their differential diagnosis, but did not order the right follow-up tests or refer their patient to a specialist who could have investigated the diagnosis appropriately.

The Seattle personal injury attorneys at Morrow Kidman Tinker Macey-Cushman, PLLC have years of experience representing families harmed by medical malpractice and other types of negligence. We seek justice for patients who have been harmed by preventable medical errors including birth injuries, hospital-acquired infections and wrongful death in Seattle and across Washington State. There are no fees or expenses to file a personal injury case as we only receive payment if we recover damages on your behalf. Do not delay; personal injury claims come with a Statute of Limitations, which means they must be filed within a certain time frame of the injury.

Call us now at 206-842-1000 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with one of our compassionate, experienced attorneys.