Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jan 10, 2020

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A Tennessee jury awarded $24 million to a woman whose breast cancer was misdiagnosed. Although she went to her doctor after discovering a lump on her breast, the doctor failed to perform the proper testing and misdiagnosed her cancer. It is thought to be one of the largest medical malpractice verdicts in Tennessee.

Med mal & misdiagnosis

Although most of us think of medical malpractice as a doctor’s actions causing an injury, the fact is that a doctor’s inactions, or misdiagnosis of a medical condition, is often what leads to medical malpractice lawsuits – and the extent of the misdiagnosis delay has a direct correlation to the amount of damages awarded.

Four stages of breast cancer

There are four stages of breast cancer – Stage I being the earliest stage and Stage IV being the most advanced. A misdiagnosis, or a delayed diagnosis, at an earlier stage of the cancer may mean that the patient would have had a better chance for recovery. However, diagnosis at a later stage generally equates to a lesser chance of recovery because certain forms of treatment may not be as effective at that time.

Medical malpractice lawyers say that if a woman has been diagnosed in a later stage, it’s important to determine when the diagnosis should have occurred. That determination generally requires a retrospective analysis of the course of prior examinations and imagining studies, along with a thorough understanding of the extent of the disease at diagnosis.

If the analysis shows that the diagnosis should have been made when a woman’s breast cancer was in Stage I, but she wasn’t actually diagnosed until Stage IV, then damages may include the cost of additional treatment both past and future, or the emotional trauma occasioned by the delay and any earnings loss suffered.

Liability issues

Who might be liable for a misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis? Depending upon the facts and circumstances of the situation, liability might fall on the shoulders of the primary care physician, the OB/GYN, the radiologist, the pathologist or even the surgeon. An experienced cancer misdiagnosis attorney will be able to review the situation and determine who might be liable for your injuries.