1 year ago, my mother went into a clinic to be examined for gall stones. The ultrasound revealed a small lump on her pancreas. Her doctor told her not to worry about the lump, no big deal, and to focus on getting her gall stones removed. When my mother asked if she should follow up on the lump after her stones were removed, she was told by her doctor that the lump was most likely a watery cyst that was very common. Seeking a 2nd opinion, she asked the surgeon who removed her stones. Her surgeon agreed with her Dr: that it was probably nothing and not to worry about it. She now has a 6cm tumor on and has started chemo, her hospital has given her 6 months. Looking back now, the report from her initial Dr. clearly says the lump is "suspicious of pancreatic neoplasm". Do we have a case?
Medical malpractice cases are incredibly difficult to prove. To file one, you need to get a similarly qualified doctor to sign off an affidavit as part of the Complaint that the actions of the doctor in your case fell below the reasonable standard of care and amounted to negligence. Most doctors do not like being labeled a "traitor" to another doctor in the medical community. Additionally, many juries hold out doctors like gods - the opposite of attorneys. Doctors are consistently in the top 5 respected professions, while attorneys are consistently in the bottom 5.
In your case you had two doctors, a doctor and a surgeon who were in agreement about the fact that they believed that it was nothing and not to worry about it. Yes, it appears that it was a misdiagnosis and there appears to be evidence from the report to put them on notice of the potential problem. Just be prepared for a dogfight. Doctors do not like to admit to their negligence. Hire a good medical malpractice attorney in the Denver area.
Ethics / Professional Responsibility Lawyer
I am sorry your mother has received such a grim diagnosis. Pancreatic cancer is almost always fatal, regardless of when it is diagnosed. For that reason in many states, your mother could not make out a malpractice claim because you could not prove that but for the malpractice, she probably would have been cured. There are some good medical malpractice lawyers in the Denver area. Any one of them would be happy to speak with you and your mother and advise whether under these facts and CO law, she would possibly have a basis to sue. Such consultations are generally free. If you have trouble finding the right lawyer contact me off list and I will give you a recommendation.
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Lawsuit / Dispute Attorney
You may have a case but you need to speak with a good medical malpractice lawyer. To prove a claim you need to show the doctors conduct fell beneath the standard of care. A misdiagnosis alone is not sufficient. For radiolgists, the typical error rate is about 10% so a doctor misreading an ultrasound may or may not be beneath the stardard of care. If you are correct and the radiologist report indicates possible cancer and there was no follow up by the family physician, this is a problem for the doctor. The mere fact that pancratic cancer is fatal does not diminsh your claim, it diminishes damages. The value of the mistake is not 30 years of life but 6 months. I would look on AVVO, Law Week Colorado, and the Bar Association for a medical malpractice attorney. I think it is worth a consultation.
Answering this quetion does not establish an attorney client relation. The answer is for educational purposes only. You should consult an attorney for your circumstances.