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Failure to diagnose leaves single mom with six months to live

A single mother, feeling chest pains, visited a local hospital emergency room. Despite a chest X-ray that displayed a suspicious two centimeter nodule in the woman's right lung, the hospital doctor advised her to go home and take Motrin, failing to advise her of the X-ray results.

This is another example of the danger of a failure to diagnose the extent of a patient's problems. Unfortunately, this happens in Pennsylvania and around the U.S. at even some of the best hospitals.

While most reasonable people understand that doctors, however talented and experienced, cannot diagnose every possible problem, when a reliable test suggests a serious potential health issue, medical professionals should conduct further investigation, at a minimum. Rapid diagnosis and treatment could have led to a different outcome for the patient.

In this case, the single mom, fearing a heart attack, took a bus to the hospital while suffering chest pains. The emergency room doctors ordered an EKG and a chest X-ray. Unfortunately, after these tests, medical personnel gave her a "clean bill of health."

The emergency room resident advised the woman that her tests were "normal," suggesting that she take Motrin for pain and "follow up" with her regular doctor. He chose not to mention the suspicious nodule detected in her right lung. The radiologist who read the X-ray recommended that the woman have a follow up X-ray in three months and suggested a CT scan if "clinical concern" warranted the test.

When the woman made another visit to the ER two years later, complaining of shortness of breath, another chest X-ray displayed that the original nodule was cancerous, had grown to twice its original size and had spread to her left lung. This time she was told she was in Stage 4 lung cancer.

Do you believe this may be a fatal case of a failure to diagnose or treat a potential problem that was known two years before it became life threatening? In your opinion, is this case a graphic example of medical malpractice?

Source: New York Daily News, "Hospital's mistake leaves single Brooklyn mom with 6 months to live," Heidi Evans, Jan. 6, 2013

Our firm handles similar situations to the one discussed in this post. For more information on these types of claims, please visit our Pittsburgh delayed diagnosis page.

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