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The Connection Between the Standard of Care and Failure to Diagnose Colon Cancer

failure to diagnose

Medical care providers owe their patients a “duty of care” which is defined as the legal obligation to take reasonable care to avoid causing harm. If a doctor or other healthcare provider is proved to have violated the standard of care and it causes harm to their patient by a failure to diagnose they may be charged with negligence.

Violating the standard of care: failure to diagnose colon cancer

When a medical malpractice attorney seeks evidence of a violation of the standard of care in failure to diagnose colon cancer it is so they can prove that a medical care provider with similar expertise would not have failed to diagnose or misdiagnose the patient.

Often the investigation starts by looking for negligent behavior in the differential diagnosis process. A successful case hinging on this process will show one or both of the following violations:

  • A doctor failed to include the correct diagnosis in their differential diagnosis, but a reasonably competent doctor under similar circumstances would have. For example, it used to be common knowledge that colon cancer was very rare among people under the age of 50. If a doctor has not kept up with current colon cancer statistics and fails to include colon cancer on the list of possible diagnoses for his 35 year patient because he believes that he is too young to have the condition then he has committed a grave diagnostic error.
  • A doctor included the right diagnosis in their differential diagnosis, but failed to order the right follow-up tests or refer the patient to a specialist to investigate that diagnosis appropriately. For example, if a patient presents with symptoms of colon cancer they should often be sent for a biopsy and/or visit with a specialist to rule out or confirm the diagnosis.

Other examples of diagnostic errors that can cause failure to diagnose cases:

·         Mixing up lab results with another patient leading to unnecessary treatment. This is particularly dangerous in cancer diagnoses as chemotherapy and other cancer treatment drugs can cause permanent harm to a patient.

·         Missing or misunderstanding crucial symptoms such as a colorectal tumor present at the time of a biopsy.

How common is colon cancer misdiagnosis?

Delayed diagnosis and misdiagnosis of colon cancer are far too common. Because many of the symptoms of colon cancer – changes in bowel movement, blood in the stool, unexplained weight loss, gas and cramping – also present in patients with other conditions, there is a risk for a misdiagnosis. Sometimes colon cancer is mistaken for inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, and colitis.

An experienced medical malpractice attorney can help you to understand when misdiagnosis qualifies as medical malpractice.

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.