Maryland Court Discusses Liability for a Delayed Diagnosis

Advances in medicine have greatly improved the treatment options for many people suffering from cancer. A prompt diagnosis is key to a good prognosis, however. Thus, missed or delayed diagnosis often negatively impacts a person’s health and long-term survival rates, and doctors that fail to diagnose their patients with cancer may be liable for medical malpractice. Recently, a Maryland court discussed what evidence a plaintiff must offer to establish that a delayed diagnosis caused actual harm, in a matter in which it ultimately dismissed the plaintiff’s claims. If you or a loved one suffered losses due to a doctor’s failure to offer a timely diagnosis, it is smart to meet with a Maryland medical malpractice lawyer to discuss your rights.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the decedent presented to the emergency department of a hospital in May 2015 with complaints of back pain, abdominal pain, and nausea. He underwent an examination and diagnostic imaging. The results of his tests were reviewed by the defendant, who determined that no abnormalities were present. The decedent was diagnosed with pancreatitis and discharged.

Allegedly, in November 2015, the decedent returned to the emergency department with complaints of abdominal pain, and additional images of his abdomen were obtained. Upon review of the images, the treating doctor observed a pancreatic body mass. The decedent was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died the following month. The plaintiff, as representative of the decedent’s estate, filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant, arguing that his failure to diagnose the decedent caused measurable harm. The defendant moved for summary judgment, and the court granted his motion. The plaintiff appealed.

Establishing Liability for a Delayed Diagnosis

On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court ruling. The court explained that the plaintiff conceded that she could not meet her burden of proving that the defendant’s negligence proximately caused the decedent’s death or that her claims for loss of chance of survival were viable under Maryland law. She argued, however, that the Maryland case law addressed the loss of chance claims appeared to leave room for the courts to explore whether loss of chance claims should be permitted.

Further, she argued that her case was a prime matter for revisiting the issue, as she could prove that the defendant’s negligence caused the decedent’s loss of chance of survival. She also argued that even if her loss of chance claims were not viable, summary judgment as to the remainder of her claims was inappropriate, as she established that the defendant’s negligence caused other damages. The court ultimately disagreed, finding that she failed to offer any evidence that the defendant’s negligence caused compensable harm. Thus, it affirmed the trial court ruling.

Talk to an Experienced Maryland Attorney

Doctors have a duty to provide their patients with competent care, which includes diagnosing them in a timely manner. If your physician’s negligence caused a delay in your diagnosis, you may be able to recover damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit, and you should talk to an attorney as soon as possible. The experienced Maryland attorneys of Arfaa Law Group can advise you of your potential claims and help you to seek any damages you may be owed. You can contact us via our online form or by calling us at (410) 889-1850 to set up a conference.

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