Maryland Court Discusses the Right to Recover Wrongful Death Damages in Cases Involving the Late Diagnosis of a Terminal Illness

Stage IV metastatic breast cancer is a devastating disease for which, tragically, there is no cure. As such, many people lose their lives to metastatic breast cancer each year. While stage IV breast cancer is not curable, it is treatable, and some people are able to live for several years after they are diagnosed. If they are robbed of the opportunity to undergo treatment due to medical negligence, though, their family members cannot recover wrongful death damages after their passing, as demonstrated in a recent Maryland opinion delivered in an oncology malpractice case. If you lost a loved one due to the incompetence of an oncologist, it is smart to meet with a knowledgeable Maryland medical malpractice attorney to evaluate your potential claims.

The Decedent’s Harm

It is reported that in 2006, the decedent was diagnosed with stage III cancer in her left breast. She underwent a mastectomy, radiation, and chemotherapy. For the next three years, her CT scans were normal. In April 2013, however, she underwent a CT scan that indicated new and possibly cancerous lesions that were not present in previous studies. The radiologist forwarded the report from the 2013 CT scan to the defendant, the decedent’s treating oncologist, who did not prescribe any follow-up tests or advise any of her providers.

Allegedly, in February 2016, the decedent was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer after she injured her shoulder. She died a year and a half later. The plaintiff, her husband, then instituted a wrongful death lawsuit against the defendant, arguing that if the decedent had been diagnosed in 2013, she would have lived an additional two and a half years. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, stating the plaintiff failed to present a viable wrongful death claim. The plaintiff appealed.

The Right to Recover Wrongful Death Damages

The appellate court noted that the issue of whether the relatives of a decedent can validly pursue wrongful death damages for the failure to diagnose a terminal illness was a matter of first impression. Ultimately, the court ruled in favor of the defendant, finding that the plaintiff failed to meet the standard imposed by the wrongful death statute.

Specifically, the wrongful death law requires a plaintiff to show that the defendant’s actions caused the decedent’s death in order for the defendant to be liable to the plaintiff for damages. Thus, regardless of whether a plaintiff can show that the defendant’s carelessness shortened the decedent’s life expectancy, no damages will be awarded if the plaintiff cannot show that the defendant’s negligence actually caused the decedent’s death. Thus, the appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Meet with an Experienced Maryland Attorney

While breast cancer can typically be treated, if a doctor fails to provide a patient with a timely diagnosis, it can lead to treatment delays and a progression of the disease. If you suffered harm or lost a loved one due to oncologist malpractice, you should meet with an attorney about your options for pursuing damages. The experienced Maryland attorneys of Arfaa Law Group are skilled at handling claims arising out of the negligence of oncologists, and if you hire us, we will work tirelessly to help you seek a just outcome. You can reach us through our form online or at (410) 889-1850 to schedule a conference.

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