Patient fights medical negligence claim over false cancer diagnosis

Date: Sep 27, 2017

A man who had a portion of his lung removed due to a cancer misdiagnosis has pursued a medical negligence claim against the doctors involved in his treatment.

The plaintiff attended his GP in 2012 and was sent for three chest x-rays and a CT scan. The tests indicated a mass on his left lung, so the patient’s GP referred him to a specialist respiratory thoracic physician – the defendant.

A fine-needle aspiration biopsy was performed, which showed signs of large cell carcinoma. The patient was then referred to a cardiothoracic surgeon, who operated on the man and removed the lower left portion of his lung.

Following the surgery, doctors found the lung had no cancerous tissue.

The patient’s negligence claim

The man argued that the defendant was negligent on two counts:

  • Referring him to a surgeon without confirming a cancer diagnosis; and
  • Failing to inform him that cancer was just a differential diagnosis.

A differential diagnosis is when more than one disease could be causing the patient’s symptoms. The plaintiff claimed that his doctor confirmed it was lung cancer without explaining the diagnosis was just the best theory.

The man said he suffers from left-sided chest pains since the surgery, as well as shortness of breath and wheezing.

He has had asthma since childhood and epilepsy from 16 onwards, with District Court Judge Robert Montgomery describing the man as “courageous” for living his life within the limitations of multiple illnesses.

But was the doctor negligent in his duty of care to the patient?

Medical experts offer opinion

Medical negligence claims rely on expert witnesses to help the judge rule if doctors have been negligent. They provide insight into whether or not other medical practitioners would follow the same course of action as the defendant.

In this case, a panel of six specialists was asked if the defendant was too hasty in referring the patient for surgery without further investigation. All but one said the doctor’s approach was legitimate considering the seriousness of lung cancer.

Cross-examination of the plaintiff also found that his recollection of his meetings with the defendant was flawed. While he recalled his doctor providing a certain diagnosis of cancer, contemporary notes and forms showed his memory was incorrect.

As such, Judge Montgomery said the doctor had not breached his duty of care, meaning the plaintiff did not receive compensation for his claimed injuries.

This case shows the high bar that claimants must meet when pursuing medical negligence damages. You should therefore always seek the expert opinion of experienced medical negligence lawyers before proceeding with your claim.

Contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers today for more information.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.