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$7 Million Awarded to Massachusets Family for Bungled Pre-Birth Diagnosis: News Report

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Gerry Oginski
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Dateline: Worcester, Massachusets

Last Friday, a Massachusetts couple was awarded $7 million because their baby girl was born "with a rare genetic disorder known as cri-du-chat syndrome." Had they been given proper prenatal genetic counseling, they may have been made aware of their child's chromosomal abnormality in order to then be able to decide whether to proceed with the pregnancy.

This case blamed two doctors for the fumbled diagnosis. Indeed, the diagnosis is the point of greatest contention in malpractice suits, according to the American Roentgen Ray Society (ARRS).

Last week, the ARRS met for their annual conference, where they determined that medical malpractice suits, including frivolous suits, seem to be declining. However, radiologists remain particularly vulnerable, especially in the areas of breast and lung cancer. According to the ARRS, a first review of lung cancer misses its diagnosis anywhere from 40-90% of the time. Additionally, "guilty verdicts are most common in birth injury and breast cancer suits at about 50 percent," though 10% of mammographers are likely to face a legal challenge in the near future.

Radiologists so often suffer the possibility of failed diagnosis because of the subjectivity of test results and computer images. Indeed, they often rely upon colleagues' second opinions. Furthermore, failure to properly communicate the medical record to physicians is often a cause of medical problems.

Leonard Berlin, MD, a conference participant, believes "incidentaloma" will be the next frontier for medical malpractice law. Incidentalomas are, "the psuedoabnormality detected on an advanced imaging study." In other words, they are small abnormalities that doctors generally believe are not worth the tests that normally accompany greater abnormalities.

However, as the doctors in the $7 million Massachusetts case can attest, it may sometimes be a good idea to be a little more careful in the diagnosis stage.

In New York, there are instances where a radiologist will err on the side of caution and recommend additional diagnostic studies because of a minor or inconclusive finding. Problems can arise when the patient's treating physician gives little credence or weight to an 'incidental' finding and it turns out to be malignant and cancerous.

If you would like more information about how medical malpractice and accident cases work in the state of New York, I encourage you to explore my educational website. If you have legal questions,  I urge you to pick up the phone and call me at 516-487-8207 or by e-mail at [email protected] to answer your questions. That's what I do every day. I welcome your call.

Category: Misdiagnosis and Failure to Diagnose

Gerry Oginski
NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer

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