Written by attorney Mitchell Scott Sexner

Medical malpractice lab mistakes

Every year in the U.S., millions and millions of biopsies, blood samples and tissue specimens are processed and analyzed by medical laboratories and hospitals. If you have ever been to a primary physician’s office, specialist, or a hospital in preparation for surgery, chances are that some sample or specimen was taken to a pathology lab to be tested. At some point in their life, almost everyone has had some type of diagnostic test performed as well, such as an X-ray, MRI or CAT scan. Doctors rely upon the results of these reports to help guide them when they diagnose and treat an illness, condition or disease, from strep throat to cancer. But shockingly, many of these lab tests are analyzed incorrectly and wrong results are reported. When this happens, medical malpractice has likely occurred as the mistakes may result in serious injury or death. This happens because doctors rely so heavily on these tests when making their decisions and a lab mistake may result in improper treatment or misdiagnosis.

Hospitals and pathology labs have a complicated job to do. They rely upon others in the medical chain to do their jobs correctly as well. Strict protocols must be followed in the collection, transportation, and analysis of samples and specimens. When any medical professional in the chain fails to perform their job correctly, mistakes and medical malpractice may occur. There are a great number of matters that can go wrong in the lab. Some of the most common include:

  • Identification errors
  • Improper collection procedures
  • Patient information miscommunication
  • Sample contamination
  • Misinterpretation of results
  • Specimens mislabeled
  • Specimens or images mishandled or misinterpreted
  • Lost specimens
  • Mixed up specimens
  • Incorrect collection of blood or tissue biopsy

From the doctor who initially ordered the tests, to the lab techs that handled the samples to the nursing staff that labeled and transported the specimens, the opportunities for mistakes and malpractice abound. Everything including the temperature and storage of the samples must be tightly controlled to avoid error. When a lab mistake occurs and a patient has been misdiagnosed or goes undiagnosed, healthy patients may think they are sicker than they are and sick patients may not know they are sick, gradually growing more ill without treatment.

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