According to plaintiff’s attorneys in a recent press release, a 61-year-old female in Kankakee, IL, visited her primary care physician in April 2008 with pneumonia-like symptoms. However, her physician allegedly failed to inform her of the presence of a mass that appeared on her chest x-ray, nor did the physician call for any follow-up testing. Due to this alleged act of negligence, the patient’s lung cancer was not identified until it had progressed to Stage IV lung cancer, approximately 22 months after her initial visit, according to attorneys for Plaintiff. Ultimately, the case was reported to have settled for $1 million dollars.
In defending similar cases, our firm has come across a frequent theme: the doctor was looking for something in particular on the x-ray, rather than looking at the entire x-ray. For example, suppose a patient comes in to the office complaining of pain following an automobile accident. As a precaution, the physician takes an x-ray to rule out the possibility of a fracture. A quick review of the film indicates that there is no fracture, and thereafter, the patient is prescribed pain medication and is sent home. A year later, the patient develops cancer and the x-ray is produced as part of a records request from an attorney.
Whatever is on that x-ray will determine whether or not the physician is sued. It is like a time bomb in the medical filing cabinet. Each x-ray must be completely read, beyond the purpose for which it was originally taken. By taking time to remind ourselves that even routine procedures may reveal major problems, we can both give our patients the best care possible and avoid liability.
By: Mark Rosen