Delayed Diagnosis Brings Medical Malpractice Suit

The fate of a five year old girl may unfortunately already be set, though her family says it didn’t have to be this way. The young girl is battling a rare and highly aggressive form of muscular cancer, alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, which was diagnosed when she was one year old. The girl’s parents say that had a proper earlier diagnosis of a bump that had grown since birth been made, she would not be left with only a five percent chance of survival now. Her family has filed a medical malpractice suit based on this opinion, which is that the delay in diagnosis contributed to their daughter’s extremely poor health.

The girl’s parents assert that the delay in diagnosis contributed to a 40 to 60 percent reduction in their daughter’s chances of survival. This opinion is supported by the medical expert hired by the family. According to the girl’s mother, “I don’t see how anybody can look at this case and not think that she would have been diagnosed in a timely fashion, that her chances of survival would have been higher.” While the girl’s doctor and defense team feel very sorry for the girl stricken with this deadly disease, they disagree with the family’s assessment.

The defense points to their opinion that they do not believe there is evidence to support the theory that the diagnosis was delayed and that the onset and advancement of the disease, though tragic, is the natural progression of the disease itself. The defense also points out that with this very rare form of cancer, children diagnosed in the first year often have a worse diagnosis than others. A prognosis such as hers was likely to have a poor outcome no matter when the disease was identified.

Recently, a Minnesota appellate court reversed a previous decision made by district court, which dismissed the family’s lawsuit holding that the girl’s doctor was not negligent in a failure to diagnosis the cancer. The appellate court determined that the girl would have been more likely to survive had the doctor not been negligent, whereas the lower court ruled that was not the case, stating the cancer itself was to blame for her worsened condition. The family is now able to go forward with their lawsuit, though the doctor and medical practice where she worked, also listed as a defendant, may petition to be heard by a higher court in an attempt to reverse the appellate courts’ decision.


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