The estate of a New Jersey woman who died in 2016 has received a $1.28 million medical malpractice settlement. The lawsuit relates to doctor’s allegedly failing to detect and diagnose cancer. After three years after the alleged medical mistake, the woman’s husband and family may finally have some relief thanks to the settlement.
Sadly, the settlement cannot replace what they lost. At MedMalFirm.com, our hearts go out to the family for their tragic loss. Read on to learn more about this case. If you have questions, do not hesitate to contact our medical malpractice attorney.
Failure to Diagnose Case Background
Dina Wyckoff went to the St. Clare’s Hospital emergency room in 2013 with severe abdominal pain. Doctors did an endoscopy and treated her for a stomach ulcer in December 2013. A biopsy was done and was sent out for further examination.
Biopsy samples showed a negative for cancer and there was no further treatment. Tragically, the samples provided a false negative. In August 2016, just three years after that original emergency room visit, Wyckoff died. She was battling stage IV cancer. She was only 34 years old when she died.
Lawsuit Results in Medical Malpractice Settlement
Six months after Wyckoff died, her husband filed a lawsuit. Named in the lawsuit are a pathologist, gastroenterologist, St. Clare’s Hospital and two private practices. Both doctors deny the claims in the lawsuit. St. Clare’s Hospital is not commenting on the case.
It is alleged that not enough biopsy samples were taken. Furthermore, the lawsuit states that Wyckoff’s overall treatment was,
“negligent, carless and reckless and did deviate from accepted standards of medical practice.”
Had doctors detected and diagnosed the cancer in 2013, it would have been treatable. Furthermore, Wyckoff would have had a 50-68 percent chance of surviving for at least five years post-diagnosis. Instead, she suffered and died just three years later.
The lawsuit filed by her husband was scheduled to go to trial in October 2019, but the case settled shortly before. While there is no doubt that the medical malpractice settlement will help Wyckoff’s family move forward, there is sadly no real compensation or resolution for a tragic loss of life.
Is Failure to Diagnose Common?
For several years, researchers have attempted to identify exactly how common medical mistakes are, including failure to diagnose. The most commonly cited research estimates that as many as 40,000 to 80,000 deaths among hospital patients each year are due to diagnostic errors. This estimate is published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Additional research from the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) also suggests that diagnostic errors are a tremendous and costly concern for Americans. A 2015 NAM study concluded the following:
- Each year, around 12 million adults receive care involving some form of diagnostic error.
- Around 10 percent of patient deaths each year can be linked to some type of diagnostic error or delayed diagnosis.
- Diagnostic errors – failure to diagnose, misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis – are the leading cause of medical malpractice claims.
- Diagnostic errors cost the economy upwards of $100 billion dollars each year.
Insurance company Coverys also provides data on medical malpractice claims and their leading causes. Their data from 2018 shows that diagnostic-related errors are the leading cause of claims.
Within that category, the most common allegations are:
These are just a few examples of the situations that commonly lead to a medical malpractice lawsuit related to failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis. There are myriad possible situations that may result in a patient considering a lawsuit.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to really understand the impact of failure to diagnose. That is because many patients do not realize that their diagnosis is incorrect. Furthermore, many patients who have an incorrect diagnosis get a second opinion and never file a claim or report the situation. They simply get treatment and hope for the best.
What Patients Should Know about Diagnostic Errors
With research clearly showing problems with diagnosis, many patients are skeptical and are slow to trust healthcare providers. It is a tricky situation for doctors and patients. Ultimately, researchers recommend patients and doctors look at the diagnostic process as a team process. The NAM report recommends healthcare environments,
“facilitate more effective teamwork in the diagnostic process among health care professionals, patients, and their families.”
Patients should advocate for themselves and not settle for an answer that seems “off” or inappropriate. If you have symptoms you feel are not getting proper attention, get a second opinion. If you are not happy with the way your doctor handles a particular visit, speak out and don’t settle for less than you deserve.
Also, if you have access to a healthcare system that offers providers and specialists across specialties, consider using them instead of smaller practices. For example, in Houston, Houston Methodist Hospital is one of the top-ranked hospitals across nine specialties. In Dallas, UT Southwestern Medical Center is top-ranked in seven specialties.
Choosing a healthcare system that ranks well in various specialties means that you have access to a variety of healthcare providers and specialists who can easily communicate and access the same medical records quickly and efficiently. This reduces the risk of medical errors due to communication or medical record issues.
Have Questions About Medical Malpractice?
Stories like what the Wyckoff family experienced are tragic. These experiences can be useful, however, in helping patients understand that there are risks in healthcare. They are also useful in helping patients understand that they do not have to settle for substandard care. Patients and their families have legal rights.
Of course, not every poor medical outcome is the result of a medical error or malpractice. Similarly, not every instance of substandard care will result in a medical malpractice settlement. The best way to find out if your experience constitutes medical malpractice is to discuss your situation with a medical malpractice attorney.
At MedMalFirm.com, medical malpractice claims are what we do. If you or someone you love is suffering an injury or illness and you believe that healthcare negligence is to blame, contact us. Let our Houston medical malpractice attorney review your situation and determine if you have an actionable claim. We cannot guarantee you a medical malpractice settlement like the Wyckoff family received, but we can guarantee you that we will do our best to protect your rights and get the best outcome possible for your claim.
To request more information or a free consultation, call us at 877-887-4850. You can also email us using our secure and confidential online form.