… says Edward P. Milstein, partner in the Manhattan-based personal injury law firm of Dankner Milstein, P.C. and a top New York medical malpractice lawyer.
“The most common category of medical malpractice litigation involves cases where the claim is that the defendant physician failed to diagnose a disease,” Milstein said. “Actually, it would be more accurate to describe these cases as involving a delay in the diagnosis of a disease as opposed to a failure. The reason being that the disease is always eventually diagnosed albeit following a delay.
“During the period of delay,” he continued, “the patient must demonstrate symptoms, signs and complaints which should have initiated a work-up by the defendant physician which presumably would have led to a timely diagnosis and the institution of treatment which would have halted the progression of the disease.
“Another variant on this theme,” he explaines, “is that a work-up was in fact undertaken based upon the symptomatology with the ordering of diagnostic studies by the defendant physician. However, a failure to properly interpret the results of the studies in turn led to a delay. Misread diagnostic tests frequently involving imaging or biopsy interpretations are often the culprits in these situations. Sometimes the abnormal results of these studies go unappreciated by the ordering physician resulting in the failure to pursue further investigation. Examples of the latter involve the results of blood work such as creatinine, PSA or liver function tests.
“By far the most common type of this genre of malpractice cases involve delays in the diagnosis of cancer,” he added, “with a resultant increase in morbidity and mortality along with a concomitant decrease in curability and survivability. Cancer cases are the only category of medical malpractice cases where practitioners in every field of medicine are not immune to liability.
“Often the success of these cases,” Milstein said, “is dependent upon the length and extent of the delay. For the longer that certain malignancies go undetected, the greater the opportunity for growth of the lesion providing opportunity for local nodal metastasis and distant spread.”
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