Early diagnosis can sometimes be the difference between survival and a terminal outcome. Some conditions can be spotted early and controlled by surgery, medication and other therapies. However, the failure to diagnose a disease process such as cancer can sometimes result in the patient's death, where the cells have metastasized and invaded other areas of the body. In Maryland and elsewhere, delayed treatment caused by a missed diagnosis can be grounds for a wrongful death action against the errant physician.
A deceased man's widow and daughter recently filed a lawsuit against two cardiologists and a clinic for allegedly failing to diagnose and intervene in an indicated cancerous condition. The man sought treatment with the two defendant cardiologists in Feb. 2009. They ordered a blood test that revealed microcytic anemia. The patient came back shortly thereafter for an angiogram and blood tests were again ordered, and again showed the anemic condition.
The lawsuit alleges that the doctors discharged the patient without informing him of the anemia. Toward the end of 2009, the patient consulted with an internist. That doctor noticed the anemia. The lawsuit indicates that the doctor explained to the decedent that the differential diagnosis of a male over 50 with microcytic anemia is colon cancer unless it is ruled out.
By the time that the colon cancer was finally discovered, it had metastasized to his liver, according to the suit. He passed away in 2012 from the cancer after undergoing extensive cancer treatments. The defendant doctors are sued under Maryland tort law for failure to diagnose the condition indicated by the abnormal blood tests. The case stands on the liability premise that the cancer could have been treated and controlled had the early diagnosis of microcytic anemia been communicated to the patient and responded to appropriately by the defendant doctors.