I am trying to figure out if there may be grounds for medical negligence

My mother was taken to the er on Aug 18th 2017, she passed away on Sept 6th from stage 4 lung cancer and also in liver and lymph nodes. She had visited her PA in the past few months complaining of stomach pain and nausea, only given meds. She had horrible cough, severe back pain that she had been prescribed pain meds for for a very long time and was not ever seen by her physician. Just kept being given meds. Too many, I thought without further investigation of a root to her pain then newersymptoms of nausea. She ended up in the ER with sob caused from pneumonia complicated with stage 4 lung cancer that had metastasized over time to her liver and the lymph nodes in her abdomen. From what we found out by the oncologist, this was not a rapidly growing cancer so if it would’ve been caught, she may have had a fighting chance. Since no additional investigating by her PA was done over the last year, my mother didn’t have a fighting chance. Even more interesting is the fact that her PA is no longer working with the practice. Not sure if she resigned or quit. I just have this gut feeling that her death could have been prevented or at least she could have had the gift of time had she been diagnosed. Am I crazy, is this common?

Asked on October 27, 2017 under Malpractice Law, West Virginia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

A missed diagnosis can provide the basis for a malpractice suit, since malpractice is any medical care which is careless, negligent, or which otherwise does not meet then generally accepted standards. But the issue is whether a suit is worthwhile, and for that you need some medical basis for knowing what the likely prognosis, had the cancer been caught earlier, would have been. Say that had it been diagnosed properly a "few" months earlier as you indicate, and that if it had been, a reasonable medical opinion, which an oncologist would render, would be that she might have lived an extra 6 months. Malpractice cases can be very expensive: if you mother was older and not working (so there was no loss of income), then 6 months of potentially poor quality (i.e. under chemo or radiation therapy) life might not be "worth" economically, as the law calculates things (which puts alot of weight on life expectancy and earning potential) to justify the cost (and time, and stress) of a lawsuit. Of course, possibly living years more would be a very different story...therefore, the first thing you need to do is to get some sense from qualified doctors or cancer experts of what difference this might have made; you will then have a basis for determining if you have a viable lawsuit.

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