Gastroenterologists are paid very well to diagnose and treat a multitude of ailments affecting the digestive tract. They check for issues related to abdominal pain and bleeding to a variety of cancers to emergencies arising from ruptured organs. The digestive system has a profound impact on the rest of the body. Wrongly diagnosing a condition or providing the wrong treatment can place patients at risk of very painful and dangerous complications. It is for this reason that the Chicago gastroenterology medical malpractice attorneys of Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC seek to hold negligent specialists accountable when their errors result in physical and emotional anguish or loss of life.
A Career in Gastroenterology Requires Extensive Training
All doctors complete a medical school program that introduces them to general medicine. Then, they have the opportunity to continue working in generalized fields such as a private practice or to pursue a career in specialized medicine. Gastroenterologists work specifically with patients suffering from illnesses and injuries to the digestive system. These can include diseases of the throat, intestines, pancreas, colon or the liver. Before any doctor can practice in this field, he or she must commit over a decade of time to study.
After earning a bachelor’s degree, students must complete the MCAT to be admitted into medical school. They then undergo four years of training both in the classroom and the field before receiving their licenses to practice medicine. Anyone looking to become a specialist must then complete the residency and fellowship requirements for their fields. The requirements for gastroenterologists are three years of residency training followed by a three-year fellowship program.
The median income for gastroenterologists is over $187,000 per year, with the potential to make up to $400,000 depending on factors such as whether they are board certified or belong to any reputable organization such as the American Gastroenterological Association.
Types of Procedures Gastroenterologists are Responsible for
In order to accurately diagnose many digestive problems or internal injuries, doctors need to get a look inside of the body. While imaging scans are an effective means of providing many specialists with the information they need, these tests are not always appropriate when diagnosing conditions of the gastrointestinal tract. Endoscopic procedures are the most common means gastroenterologists will use to locate and diagnose many conditions or injuries. This requires the use of a device called an endoscope— which is a flexible tube equipped with a camera, light and other technology. It is designed to help with the diagnosis of serious conditions.
The endoscopic procedures performed by a gastroenterologist may include the following.
- Colonoscopies— the primary purpose of a colonoscopy is to determine whether there are any abnormalities inside of the large intestine. Polyps, tumors and possible cancers are some of the things that gastroenterologists will search for when performing this test. If an abnormality is found, a biopsy is usually taken to determine its nature and to help with a final diagnosis.
- Upper endoscopies— referred to as an EGD, an upper endoscopy is a procedure that allows doctors to get a look inside of the esophagus, stomach and the beginning of the small intestine. This test is ordered when patients have difficulty swallowing, present with symptoms of heartburn or GERD. It may also be used when the doctor suspects bleeding somewhere in the upper digestive tract. An enteroscopy is much the same, except the endoscope is designed to make it farther into the small intestine.
- ERCP— this test is designed to diagnose conditions affecting the bile ducts, pancreas and gallbladder. It is performed by injecting dyes inside of the digestive tract that will show up in an x-ray. Certain conditions can then be treated using a special endoscope.
- Ostomy exams— patients that have surgically implanted ostomies require routine examinations to make sure that the devices are working properly and are not causing any complications. This is most common for patients who have undergone a colonostomy.
- Infra-red coagulation therapy— this procedure is for the treatment of hemorrhoids as an alternative to traditional surgical procedures.
- Lower EUS— during this procedure, an endoscope is equipped with an ultrasound attachment to examine the rectum and large intestine. If anything abnormal is found, a biopsy can be performed during the procedure as well.
- Upper EUS— this test is similar to a lower EUS, but focuses on the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine. The ultrasound allows the doctor to get a good look at surrounding organs such as the lymph node system and the pancreas as well.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy— during this test, the doctor examines the rectum and last portion of the colon. Patients have the ability to choose whether or not to undergo this test under sedation, but many still elect to be placed under anesthesia anyway.
- Pouch exams— these procedures are similar to ostomy exams. Here, the doctor examines the interior of a surgical J-pouch. A J-pouch is created using part of the small intestine to form an internal reservoir that allows patients who have had portions of their large intestine removed to have voluntary bowel movements instead of relying on a colonostomy bag.
- Video capsule endoscopies— a VCE is performed by having the patient swallow a capsule containing a camera that is no larger than a typical vitamin pill. The camera takes pictures as it moves through the GI tract and is passed through a bowel movement sometime in the next two days after obtaining the pictures needed.
These are only some of the tests that gastroenterologists may perform. They are also trained to treat a number of digestive diseases through the administration of medicine or surgical intervention.
Gastroenterologist Medical Malpractice Commonly Occurs due to Poor Patient Management
While many of the conditions that affect the digestive tract are minor and treated easily, it is imperative that patients receive timely diagnoses in order to prevent more serious concerns from developing. This can also catch a potentially fatal condition during its early stages. Our Chicago gastroenterology malpractice lawyers often handle cases that were the result of a simple failure on part of the doctor to order the tests needed to properly diagnose the patient or a failed diagnosis that resulted in the patient receiving the wrong treatment. The following sections outline some common mistakes that gastroenterologists may make which may be considered as medical negligence by both the medical and legal communities.
- Failure to order tests that are normally considered appropriate. Examples of this include not ordering a colon exam for patients at risk of colorectal cancer due to age or lifestyle or providing a quick diagnosis without investigating the patients’ concerns any further. In both cases, the failure to order the tests can have catastrophic consequences, such as the spread of cancer unabated or progressive damage to the digestive tract due to an untreated illness or condition.
- Improper administration of anesthesia. Even though patients are not operated on during most gastroenterological tests, many of the tests can be uncomfortable. Patients may require some form of anesthesia throughout an endoscopic procedure and it is important that they are provided the correct dosage of medication to avoid complications. Possible interactions and side effects must also be considered when ordering anesthesia and errors can result in serious complications or injury.
- Misinterpretation of test results. It is possible for doctors to come to the wrong conclusion when interpreting test results incorrectly or failing to detect the presence of abnormalities during the course of an examination. Such errors can result in the wrong diagnosis or a failure to provide any diagnosis at all.
- Errors during and following surgical procedures. Some gastroenterological conditions require surgical intervention and it is possible for the surgeon to make mistakes. Most of these mistakes can be corrected if noticed, but closing the patient up without repairing the damage can have dire consequences such as internal bleeding, damage to organs or the development of infections that are difficult to treat.
- Failure to follow up with patients. It is very important that all doctors properly monitor patients after they have undergone any surgical procedure or when they are considered to be at risk of developing serious complications. Proactive and preventative measures should be taken to address potential concerns. Also, appropriate follow up visits and tests should be scheduled to ensure the patient recovers as he or she should.
Sample Gastroenterology Malpractice Verdicts & Settlements
$1,500,000 Settlement; Gastroenterology Malpractice; Chicago, Illinois
This case was largely a matter of missed diagnosis. The main medical department was gastroenterology. The patient was a woman. She was seventy-three. For a period of time, she found blood in her stool and urine. She went to see the doctors. They performed a biopsy. The gastroenterologist did not suspect or find anything out of the ordinary. Yet, just over one year later, the woman was found to have stage-three cancer. Doctors tried to help her. They performed chemotherapy and other treatments. Yet, it had already spread to her lungs. She died from the cancer. Her three children survived her. They had all reached adulthood by this point. Her family sued the gastroenterologist. In their lawsuit, they argued she lost her chance of survival due to this missed diagnosis. Plus, they claimed other damages such as medical bills that totaled over $300,000. The matter did not see a jury. Both sides settled for a reported $1.5 million.
$580,000 Jury Award; Gastroenterology Malpractice; Macon, Illinois
The estate of a recently deceased woman brought this cause of action in the sixth judicial circuit of Illinois. The woman saw her doctors on a late night in November. They performed an esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) as well as a colonoscopy. Their diagnosis was esophageal varices, between stages two and four. After this procedure, they discharged her. However, she came back not more than one week later. She returned because she had uncontrollable vomiting. The gastroenterologist and other doctors consulted her, had her stay in the hospital, but did nothing further. They did not put in a band or do an endoscopy to stop the bleeding and vomiting. Not long after they left her, she died of the same bleeding. Her estate contended that their failure to use a band or perform an endoscopy was what killed her. The defendant doctors maintained that they acted within the standard of care. The jury denied this point and awarded the estate with $580,000 of compensation. $180,000 of that amount was for suffering and pain. $400,000 of that figure was for wrongful death damages.
$1,011,950 Jury Award; Gastroenterology Malpractice; Macon, Illinois
An elderly man got caught in a string of unfortunate events in this case. He was eighty-nine. He went to the hospital because of leg problems. Doctors performed a CT scan. Results from that test led them to think he had colon cancer. The gastroenterologist wanted to do a colonoscopy. The man later claimed they did this over his objections and without proper instruction or warning of complications. During this procedure, the gastroenterologist lacerated the colon. This caused sepsis and required a colostomy. The result was lots of pain and enormous medical bills. He sued the gastroenterologist, other doctors, and the facility. His lawsuit alleged they did not properly inform him of the risks involved, did not perform the procedure in a reasonable way, and did use other available testing and procedural to accomplish the same ends without damage. The defendants insisted that they did inform him properly. Also, they claimed they did act reasonably in the execution of their duties despite the side effects. The damage was clear though and that is probably what did them in. The jury awarded the man $1,011,950. They gave him $500,000 for pain; $250,000 for lost normal life; $60,000 for disfigurement; and $201,950 for medical and hospital bills.
$750,000 Settlement; Gastroenterology Malpractice; Chicago, Illinois
The woman that sued in this case was fifty-seven. She saw her gastroenterologist because of rapid weight loss and blood in her urine and stool. The gastroenterologist ran some tests but did not find anything. Just six months after this visit, another doctor performed a colonoscopy. He found a cecal mass. She was diagnosed with terminal cancer. It had metastasized throughout her body. She would die from the cancer. She sued the gastroenterologist. Her lawsuit claimed the doctor’s missed diagnosis cost her any chance she had to fight the illness. However, the defendant was able to show reports that the cancer had already spread before he misread her lab results. Therefore, he could make the argument that there was nothing she could do and his errors, if any, did not change anything. This explains the rather low settlement figure of $750,000 which falls far below the average for missed diagnosis and wrongful death claims in this area of medicine.
How a Chicago Gastroenterologist Medical Malpractice Attorney can Help You
If you believe that you have been injured due to improper medical care, we understand how frustrating it can be when you have a lot of questions and no answers. Medical malpractice lawsuits require extreme care and your chance of recovering the compensation you are entitled to is much greater when you have access to a legal team that specializes in medical law. This is why Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC has a special team of attorneys committed solely to working with injured patients just like you.
Our experienced Chicago medical malpractice lawyers have helped thousands of clients recover damages including their medical bills, lost wages, out of pocket expenses and more. Other damages claimed can include pain and suffering, the cost of future medical care, the untimely death of a loved one, lost opportunity due to the inability to work and a permanent reduction to their quality of life.
Contact us today to learn more about your legal options during a free consultation with one of our award-winning Chicago gastroenterologist medical malpractice attorneys. Once we gather all of the information we need to properly evaluate your case, we can let you know what legal avenues you are able to pursue and how best to proceed with your case. Since we work solely on a contingency basis, you are assured that unless we are able to recover compensation on your behalf, our services will be free of charge.