Pathologists perform some of the most critical work in the medical world and the ability of other physicians to accurately diagnose and treat patients often rests on the results of that work. Their work, along with the work performed by radiologists, is the primary means that most other specialists have to determine what is ailing their patients. This is also why pathologists are among the most heavily scrutinized medical specialists and more likely to be held accountable when something goes wrong. The Chicago pathologist medical malpractice attorneys of Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC are committed to serving the needs of those who have suffered severe complications or injury because of poor lab work.
Pathologists Undergo Strenuous Training to Enjoy Lucrative Careers
In order to become a pathologist, aspiring medical students must endure an educational journey that lasts more than twelve years. It begins with the completion of a bachelor’s degree and a doctorate in either medicine or osteopathy and then continues into the real world through a residency program where doctors gain hands-on experience working alongside experienced pathologists. Residency programs allow doctors to earn money while they further their education and assist specialists working in their desired areas of specialty. Most residencies last three to four years and pathologists are required to commit a full four years to their residency.
After completing their residency programs, pathologists in training have the option to earn their board certification and then continue onto an optional two-year fellowship. Electing to complete both serves the interests of everyone involved; as it provides additional training for the specialist and allows him or her to then demand more pay later on. The median salary for pathologists in the United States is about $175,000 and those who are board certified and belong to reputable medical organizations are able to command much more lucrative salaries.
Every specialist has the opportunity to pursue further subspecialties and pathologists may decide to earn certifications in the areas of chemical pathology, hematology, medical microbiology, neuropathology, forensic pathology, cytopathology, blood transfusion and banking or other specialties.
While our Chicago pathologist malpractice lawyers appreciate the sacrifice and hard work required to develop a career in the field, we also recognize the devastating impact that poor pathology can have on the patients counting on it for an accurate diagnosis.
The Complex Responsibilities of Pathologists and the Tests They Perform
Few people can appreciate the work that pathologists do until they learn that there are over 2,000 different diagnostic tests these specialists are responsible for performing. Their responsibility is to examine blood, tissue samples, urine and other bodily matter that is submitted while attempting to detect a wide range of indicators that can be used to diagnose medical conditions and diseases. They perform most of their work in the lab, determining how conditions are caused, their progression, whether the body is exhibiting changes at the cellular level and how the symptoms of the illnesses they discover are manifested.
Lab results can reveal the presence of a virus, bacterial or fungal infection and parasites while also detecting the rapid production of cancer cells and the presence of alcohol, drugs, and toxins in the blood. While most patients never see their pathologists face to face, they are the ones that report back to the physicians in charge of their care and discuss results diagnoses and treatment options. While they do thankless work, they are also insulated when things go wrong because patients are more likely to lay the blame at the feet of the physicians they interact with.
Following are just some of the tests that pathologists handle and their importance to arriving at a diagnosis.
- Gross examination— this type of procedure involves the examination of a sample using microscopes to identify common diseases. It is often instrumental in discovering the presence of parasites or infections. In many cases, a pathogen that is causing tissue death can be easily identified by looking at samples of the dead tissue.
- Hematopathology— hematopathology is centered around the study of cells in the blood to reveal diseases and disorders. The tests performed focus on the blood cells themselves rather than the other components found in the sample to determine whether the body is exhibiting an immune response or if mutations are present, such as when a patient is suffering from leukemia.
- Urinalysis— after collecting a urine sample, pathologists can study the chemical makeup of the fluids eliminated through the urine to detect the presence of pathogens, chemicals, and other substances which could lead to a diagnosis. A urine sample may also reveal deficiencies or an excess of substances that can determine the cause of an illness.
- Fecal analysis— the examination of fecal matter can be effective in identifying parasites and other pathogens that leave the body through bowel movements. It is primarily ordered by gastroenterologists looking to confirm or rule out certain illnesses in the digestive tract.
- Toxicology— both blood and urine can be put through a toxicological examination to determine whether alcohol, drugs, certain medications or other toxic substances are present. By determining what substances are present in the body, doctors can then administer the appropriate substances to counteract poisons, drugs or medicines.
- Endocrinology— endocrine testing can reveal abnormalities in the hormone levels of patients who may be suffering from disorders caused by hormonal imbalances in the brain or throughout the body.
- Biopsies— during a biopsy, a small piece of tissue is extracted from an area of concern and then sent to the lab to be examined for the presence of cancer. Pathologists then study the cells to determine whether the sample is benign, malign or the result of another medical condition entirely.
- Blood panels— most commonly referred to as “blood work,” a blood panel is meant to examine the levels of minerals, vitamins, cholesterol and other substances in the blood. In some cases, it can reveal deficiencies in hormones or minerals— such as iron.
These are just some of the areas of practice and forms of tests that pathologists can use to help doctors determine their diagnoses. Another important function for pathologists is the recommendation of additional tests if the results of those ordered appear inconclusive. If there is any doubt, additional tests should be performed to confirm a non-diagnosis.
Many Doctors Receive Unwarranted Blame for Pathology Malpractice
When physicians need to determine the cause of patients’ symptoms, they order diagnostic tests to learn more about what is happening inside of their bodies. They will ultimately make their next medical decisions using the information contained in the test results that they receive. Pathologists and radiologists administer most of the tests that other specialists rely on for an accurate diagnosis and will often consult with these specialists to help determine a diagnosis and recommended course of treatment.
When the information that a doctor receives is inaccurate or for the wrong patient, it can result in chaos for the patient and his or her family. It could delay the diagnosis of a serious condition such as cancer or influence the decision of the doctor to prescribe a harmful course of treatment. The common errors that our Chicago pathologist malpractice lawyers encounter include the following.
- Failure to diagnose cancer. The need to detect and treat cancer in early stages can never be overstated, which is why the failure to accurately detect the presence of cancer can deliver a death sentence.
- Returning results for the wrong patient. Mixing up patient test records can impact patients negatively by delivering a false positive test result or providing a negative result for an existing condition.
- Performing tests incorrectly. Some false test results are the product of improper testing procedures and can have an impact on the diagnosis a patient receives.
- Contamination of the sample. Lab work needs to be performed with meticulous attention to detail and discretion so that the material being tested is not exposed to anything that can compromise the test results.
- Misinterpretation of results. While many specialists can form their own opinions, those opinions are influenced by the pathologist who has returned the results. If he or she doesn’t interpret the results correctly, it may lead to a missed diagnosis.
How an Experienced Pathologist Malpractice Lawyer Can Help You
Following a misdiagnosis that leads to complications or injury, most patients assume that their doctor or specialist is to blame without considering the role that a pathologist might have played in the process. Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC has worked with thousands of clients whose injuries resulted from shoddy lab work and incorrect diagnoses and we know how important it is to determine who is at fault for your injuries before pursuing legal action.
If you have been injured and believe that it was due to a failed diagnosis, we may be able to help. Our medical malpractice team has many years of experience and success working on cases similar to your own. It is possible that your physician acted reasonably given the information he or she was provided, but that doesn’t excuse the pathologist responsible for delivering your test results.
Contact us today to arrange a free consultation with one of our award-winning Chicago pathologist medical malpractice attorneys so that we can evaluate all of the details of your case and determine which legal avenues are available for you to recover the compensation you are entitled to for the cost of your medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages and more. We work solely on a contingency basis, which means we will never require fees upfront and will only receive payment after we secure damages on your behalf.