Medical Negligence

Cancer misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, or failure to diagnose may occur due to medical negligence of the patient’s treating doctor. Medical negligence is defined as carelessness or lack of proper attention and care for a patient in a medical setting. When examining the cause of cancer diagnosis errors, it is important to distinguish between medical negligence and other, unavoidable causes. Particularly in cancer cases, medical diagnosis errors may occur even when a qualified doctor acts appropriately to diagnose and treat a patient.

Cancer Misdiagnosis Medical Negligence

In the legal perspective, medical negligence is established by observing the actions of the treating doctor that the patient claims to be negligent. These actions are then analyzed and compared to the standards of reasonable care in the industry. This means that the actions in question are examined to determine whether or not a doctor of similar qualification, knowledge, and specialization would have acted the same or similarly. If the doctor in question failed to practice reasonable care when treating the patient, the doctor may be found guilty of medical negligence.

Medical negligence during cancer misdiagnosis may occur when the treating medical professional:

  • Fails to recognize and investigate symptoms that a similar doctor would have recognized and investigated
  • Ignores complaints or the disclosure of certain symptoms from the patient
  • Fails to provide appropriate treatment for symptoms that typically indicate a certain condition
  • Fails to order appropriate cancer testing that corresponds with the patient’s symptoms and medical state, such as a biopsy to examine abnormal tissue
  • Fails to properly interpret or read test results sent from the laboratory which performed cancer testing
  • Fails to acknowledge or implement treatment or further testing recommended by the laboratory or other advising medical professionals
  • Fails to refer the patient to a more qualified specialist when he or she lacks proper qualification to diagnose and treat the patient’s symptoms or condition
  • Fails to respond to indications of cancer in a timely and appropriate manner
  • Administers incorrect or inappropriate treatment for indicated conditions
  • Fails to provide adequate follow-up care to determine the efficacy of an administered treatment plan

Parties Responsible for Medical Negligence

Any individual or party taking part in the patient’s cancer diagnosis and treatment plan may be held responsible for medical negligence. Among others, this may include parties such as the patient’s primary care physician, nurse or assistant, cancer specialist, medical company which employs a medical professional, and laboratory or laboratory employees responsible for conducting and analyzing testing. In cases where faulty medical or testing equipment caused a cancer misdiagnosis, the company which manufactured faulty testing equipment may be held liable for medical negligence.

Signs of Medical Negligence

Signs of medical negligence may include:

  • Persistent or worsening symptoms, despite administered treatment
  • Incongruence between the patient’s symptoms and the doctor’s prescribed plan of care
  • A cancer treatment plan that relies solely on the results of a single test
  • The doctor’s failure to acknowledge certain symptoms or perform appropriate testing
  • The doctor’s failure to ask the patient additional questions or offer to answer the patient’s questions
  • The doctor’s inability to answer questions asked by the patient
  • The doctor’s failure to administer certain basic types of tests that are warranted from the patient’s symptoms or condition
  • The doctor’s failure to follow-up with the patient after diagnosis and treatment takes place
  • Evidence of miscommunication among medical professionals in a specific office, or between different offices or companies

Preventing Medical Negligence

Patients should be alert and aware when seeing a doctor or other medical specialist for abnormal symptoms. Patients should conduct as much research as possible regarding certain symptoms and the potential medical conditions which may cause them. When meeting with a doctor, patients should ask as many questions as needed to ensure a thorough understanding of their condition, possible causes, treatment options, and the side effects that may be caused by recommended testing and treatment options.

Getting a Second Opinion

If patients suspect medical negligence or incompetence, they should immediately seek a consultation with another medical professional. It is recommended to consult a physician whose specialization focuses on the general area of the patient’s symptoms. For example, patients should consult a gastrointestinal or colorectal cancer specialist for symptoms such as bowel changes, rectal bleeding, and abdominal discomfort.




“Actionable wrong diagnosis and ‘Gross Medical Negligence’.” Medical Law Cases – for Doctors 4.12 (2011): 183.Academic OneFile. Web. 8 Nov. 2013.

Blake, David R. “Alternative Prescribing and Negligence.” Best Medical Malpractice Guide  326.7386 (2003): 455. ProQuest. Web. 8 Nov. 2013.

“Delayed diagnosis and medical negligence.” Medical Law Cases – for Doctors 4.6 (2011): 87. Academic OneFile. Web. 8 Nov. 2013.