Misdiagnosis of Cancer and Medical Malpractice


If a doctor does not accurately diagnose cancer, it could be cause for consulting with a medical malpractice lawyer. One of the main questions when determining if there is a medical malpractice case is if the doctor had a professional standard level of care. A doctor must do what any other reasonable doctor would do if they were in the same situation.

In a majority of medical malpractice lawsuits, the case based on a doctor incorrectly diagnosing or failing to diagnose cancer will require a defendant and a plaintiff to provide testimony from experts in which states what reasonable care would be considered in that case. Just because the doctor’s diagnosis was found out later to be wrong, it does not mean that the doctor did not take the standard level of care or behaved inappropriately given the situation. Some cancers are very hard to identify at different stages and some conditions, like cysts for example, can be confused as cancer. Mistakes do happen, however, if the mistake is unreasonable then it could be considered medical malpractice.

Could the consequences of a misdiagnosis have been avoided?

In order for a doctor to be found responsible for medical malpractice, the patient must have suffered from an injury that they would not otherwise had if the doctor had not provided a substandard level of care. This can be difficult to show in a cancer misdiagnosis case. In a cancer case, the patient may have the same consequences had the doctor correctly diagnosed them originally. In cases with cancers with high fatality rates, a doctor would not be responsible for a substandard level of care because that would not have been considered the true cause of death.

The patient or their family could bring an argument than the patient’s life was shortened, or their quality of life was diminished, or the patient lost their chance to survive. In some states, these types of cases are able to be brought to court while the patient is still living. While these cases can be successful, they can also lose because there is not a lot of medical proof behind them. Modern medicine has allowed for patient’s to live longer and to recover fully from cancer, so it is not true anymore that most of medical malpractice lawsuits on the misdiagnosis of cancer are defended successfully for being too speculative. As with any lawsuit, the outcome of a medical malpractice case is based solely on the specific situations of the case.

Diagnosing a Patient with Cancer Incorrectly

Another type of misdiagnosis of cancer takes place when a doctor tells a patient they have cancer when they do not. If the misdiagnosis was because of the doctor giving a substandard level of care, the doctor would be responsible for any injuries or costs associated with unneeded surgeries or treatments. The doctor could also be held responsible for the pain and suffering a patient endures while believing they have have a potentially fatal cancer.