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Congressman’s Case Illustrates ‘Loss of Chance’ Doctrine

Posted on June 29, 2015 by Kelly Wolford
pancreatic cancer with ribbon

A former Ohio state Congressman is fighting an uphill battle with pancreatic cancer, allegedly due to negligence on the part of his government doctors. His case illustrates what is commonly called the “loss of chance” doctrine.

According to Cleveland.com, the Congressman’s lawyer claims that government doctors failed to inform the Congressman of a pancreatic lesion which could have been treated relatively easily.

Now, the Congressman is in the process of initiating legal action against the U.S. government for its alleged failure to inform him and provide the necessary follow-up, which might have allowed him to avoid the dire outcome he currently faces.

As the lawsuit has not yet been filed, due to complexities involved in the process of filing a lawsuit against the federal government, no information is yet available on the damages being sought.

What is the ‘Loss of Chance’ Doctrine?

The “loss of chance” doctrine is a legal principle which allows patients to seek damages from doctors, nurses or other medical professionals for the heightened risk of injury or death or for the harsher treatment they now will be forced to endure as a result of a delayed diagnosis or other negligence.

In the Congressman’s case, he claims he was not informed about the MRI test results in which a lesion was found. He also alleges that he was not told about any suggested follow-up.

Instead, he claims, it was not until two years later – when he went to a private doctor – that he was informed a pancreatic tumor had developed. At this late stage, the prognosis he was given was “uncertain yet grave, with no definitive predictions with regard to life expectancy,” Cleveland.com reports.

Experts, who were brought in by the Congressman’s legal team, state that government doctors made some serious mistakes along the way. Although the lesion was detected back in 2012, the Congressman claimed he did not seek further treatment or medical assistance as the gastrointestinal problems he was having seemed to be resolved. Also, his doctors had not told him there was any problem, he alleges.

By the time the Congressman sought treatment in the summer of 2014 for abdominal pain he was feeling, the lesion on his pancreas had developed into a cancerous tumor.

Pancreatic Cancer: Delayed Diagnosis Can Lead to Difficult Battle

Although pancreatic cancer is notorious for being difficult to diagnose, the Congressman, his lawyers and many others believe if he had been told about the lesion, he could have followed up with doctors and possibly caught the cancer at an earlier stage, Cleveland.com states.  As a result, he may not be in the grave condition he is in today.

According to five-year survival rates from the American Cancer Society, pancreatic cancer can be difficult to fight. Being able to diagnose this cancer in the early stages, so surgery can be done, has been shown to prolong life-expectancy among those with pancreatic cancer. Five-year survival rates at each stage are as follows:

Stage IA 14%
Stage IB 12%
Stage IIA 7%
Stage IIB 5%
Stage III 3%
Stage IV 1%

 

What the ‘Loss of Chance’ Doctrine May Mean in Your Case

Many states limit a patient’s ability to file a claim seeking damages based on medical malpractice or negligence.

Some states, like New York, recognize the “loss of chance” doctrine and agree that a delayed diagnosis and treatment can significantly affect a patient’s chances of being able to achieve a more favorable outcome. At the very least, a timely diagnosis and treatment could allow for less aggressive treatment options and a prolonged life expectancy.

If you or a loved one has suffered harm due to a delayed diagnosis, this legal principle could play a significant role in your case.

The medical malpractice lawyers of Powers & Santola, LLP, are committed to being the aggressive advocates that victims and their families need. By using our skills and experience with delayed cancer diagnoses, we can work diligently to help you pursue just compensation. Whether you live in Albany, Syracuse or elsewhere in New York, contact  us to schedule a free, confidential consultation.