Pathologists perform some of the most critical work in the medical world. 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. If you or a loved one suffered an injury or death due to alleged pathology malpractice, contact our office today for a free case review.
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. Then, it 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 this 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. They attempt to determine how conditions are caused, their progression, 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. It can also detect 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.
The 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 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 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.
Sample Pathology Malpractice Jury Verdict Awards & Settlements
$1,000,000 Settlement; Pathology Malpractice; Chicago, Illinois
This case highlights the critical need for pathologists to work in a timely and effective manner. The affected patient was seventy-nine at the time of the events. She went to see a doctor and pathologist for a biopsy. There was a lesion on her tongue that needed to be examined. Apparently, the pathologist reported findings that did not alert the medical staff or patient to the fact that she had cancer. Consequently, she went on with her life unaware of the significant medical issue she had. Eventually, the cancer spread and took her life. Her children and husband survived her. They brought a lawsuit against the facility and pathologist. They alleged that the failed diagnosis gave her a lost chance at survival. With adequate testing and instruction, she might have lived a longer and healthier life they contended. The defendants offered a reply but did not fight the family in court. The matter ended in settlement. The family received $1,000,000 in compensation.
$2,500,000 Settlement; Pathology Malpractice; Chicago, Illinois
This case was the ultimate example of pathology malpractice in the form of failed diagnosis and negligent treatment. The patient was a male in his late fifties at the time of the events that gave rise to this Illinois lawsuit. He had pain in his abdomen. He went to see a doctor in October of 2011. The pathologist determined that it was stomach cancer. That diagnosis was incorrect. It was actually just an ulcer. Nevertheless, doctors proceeded on this false basis and removed a part of his body that was otherwise fine. Due to complications from the surgery, he died in January of 2012. His estate brought a wrongful death action against the pathologist, other doctors, and facility. The lawyers argued that but for their combined negligence, he would still be alive and well. Plus, the affair cost him over $500,000 in medical bills and more than $100,000 in lost wages. The defendants did not have any excuse that would hold up in court. That fact was evidenced by the relatively quick settlement. The plaintiffs received $2,500,000. Sixty percent of that award came from the hospital. The rest of the compensation as paid by the pathologist’s insurance company.
$950,000 Verdict; Pathology Malpractice; Gibson City, Illinois
This story illustrates the fundamental role of pathology in healthcare. The patient involved was a man in his early seventies. He went to the hospital because he had epigastric discomfort. He was discharged the next day with instructions to see his primary doctor. He followed those instructions and the primary doctor gave him the same diagnosis. However, neither of these doctors did any significant testing, lab work, or consultation with specialists. A few days later, the man went back to the emergency room because things were not getting any better. He stayed there a few days and was eventually discharged. On that same day, he died from a myocardial infection. His family sued the doctors and hospital. They alleged that the defendants did not properly test him, diagnose him, treat him, or refer him to specialists. In their view, this led to his death as well as their pain and grieving. The doctors replied that he could have gotten the infection from the ER visit. Also, they complained that his condition did not warrant specialist consultations. The jury deliberated the case for several hours. Then, they rendered a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs. The family received $400,000 for economic damages (medical bills, funeral costs, etc.), $250,000 for suffering, $200,000 for trauma, and $100,000 for disability. This was one of the largest verdicts in the county including all pathology malpractice cases.
$1,100,000 Settlement; Pathology Malpractice; Cook County, Illinois
This case involved pathologists from Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The patient was thirty-two. She contended the doctors did not adequately identify the cancer in her breast based on the hormone receptor status. It was first spotted in 2007. Consequently, she did not receive the best care possible. Eventually, it metastasized into her bones. This development basically depleted any chance she had to live without it reoccurring. She sued the pathologists and facility for this sequence of events. Her lawsuit claimed it was negligence that caused her real economic and non-economic damages. The defendants offered a reply. However, the substance of their defenses were not discussed in court. The matter did not make it to trial. Rather, all parties decided to settle. The woman obtained $1,100,000. This was to cover her pain, suffering, diminished quality of life, lost chance at survival, medical bills, lost income, and related losses.
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. 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. We can evaluate all of the details of your case and determine which legal avenues are available for you to recover compensation. This will help cover 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.