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Is My Family Medicine Provider Liable To Find & Diagnose Cancer?

Early detection and diagnosis of cancer can make a dramatic difference in the long-term prognosis for patients. As explained by the National Cancer Institute, when cancer and other types of problematic tissues are found early they “may be easier to treat.” As cancer starts to spread, the challenges increase and prognosis worsens.

If you go to a family medicine doctor, you may have questions about their responsibilities to find and diagnose cancer. Family medical providers can be held liable for failure to diagnose cancer in New York. Here, our Albany delayed cancer diagnosis lawyers provide an overview of a family medicine provider’s liabilities in regards to finding cancer under NY medical malpractice law.

What Is Family Medicine In The United States?

Many people in New York and throughout the country rely primarily on family medicine providers for their health care needs. As defined by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), family medicine is a “medical specialty which provides continuing, comprehensive health care for the individual and family.”

In other words, a family medical provider is essentially a normal physician. They are fully licensed and have the same responsibilities as other doctors. The biggest difference between family medicine providers and other types of primary care doctors is that those who practice family medicine tend to frequently see and treat patients of all ages.

Your Family Doctor Owes You (and Your Loved Ones) A Duty Of Care

Doctors, clinics, and other medical providers owe a duty of care to their patients. If you and your loved ones receive treatment from a family medicine provider, you have every right to expect high-quality care. A family doctor is a trained and licensed professional. Patients should not have to worry that serious underlying medical conditions are potentially being missed by their family doctors.

In New York, family physicians must treat patients with the knowledge, professional skill, and diligence that an ordinary doctor would have provided under similar circumstances. In effect, this means that your family medicine provider has a legal obligation to provide you with care that is no worse than you would have received had you gone to see another ordinary doctor.

A Timely Cancer Diagnosis Is Essential—Family Doctors Should Detect Problems

A timely cancer diagnosis is crucial. In some cases, it could be the difference between a relatively quick recovery and a long, frightening battle with cancer. In other cases, it could even be a matter of life or death. For example, a study published in the academic journal frontiers in Public Health noted that the delayed diagnosis of breast cancer is associated with “poorer chances for survival.”

The effect found by researchers is significant. When breast cancer is detected four weeks earlier, the survival rate jumps by nearly 15 percent. The greater the delay in diagnosis, the worse the patient’s expected outcome. Although they are not cancer specialists, family medicine providers still have a responsibility to detect and follow up on potential health problems.

Failure To Diagnose Cancer and Liability In New York State: An Overview

Failure to diagnose cancer could be considered medical malpractice in New York. That being said, a doctor or other health provider is not always liable for malpractice if they fail to catch cancer. Some early stage cancers are difficult to diagnose, even with our improved modern technology. To hold a family physician liable for a failed or delayed cancer diagnosis, a patient must prove:

There was a doctor-patient relationship;
The family doctor failed to diagnose cancer due to negligence; and
Actual harm was suffered as a consequence of the delayed diagnosis.

To summarize, you can hold a family physician legally liable for malpractice if they fail to diagnose cancer in a timely manner. Doing so requires proving that your family doctor failed to catch cancer that another doctor of ordinary skill and prudence would have likely detected when placed under similar conditions.

Call Our New York Medical Malpractice Attorneys For Immediate Help With Your Case

At Powers & Santola, LLP, our top-rated New York medical malpractice lawyers have the specialized skills, knowledge, and legal expertise that you and your family can rely on for results. If you have questions or concerns about medical provider liability and a failed/delayed cancer diagnosis, we are here to help. Contact our law firm now for free legal advice. From our offices in Syracuse, Albany, and Rochester, we serve communities all throughout the region, including in Utica, Rome, Oswego, Schenectady, Saratoga, Troy, Cooperstown, and Gloversville.

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