Medical Malpractice: Failure to Detect Oral Cancer
If your dentist failed to detect oral cancer, it may be time to call a medical malpractice attorney
A diagnosis of oral cancer is heartbreaking, but learning that your dentist failed to make a timely diagnosis can be devastating. If this describes what has happened to you or a loved one, a personal injury attorney with experience in medical malpractice can help you sort through your case. Such attorneys are often called medical malpractice attorneys.
You might be among the 35,000 people who receive an oral cancer diagnosis this year, about 70 percent of whom learn of their malignancy at stages 3 or 4. Medical malpractice claims regarding missed oral cancer diagnoses are the second most common types of malpractice a medical malpractice attorney specializing in this area sees.
This is due in part to the expanded standards of care the dental profession has placed upon itself in recent years.
Dentists have always focused on tooth health, and more recently on cosmetic enhancements. But the legal standard for dental practitioners also includes head and neck examinations, in light of patients’ medical histories. A dentist should also ask a patient about his or her use of alcohol and tobacco products, which often (but not always) are causative factors in oral cancer.
As with all types of cancer, an early diagnosis, such as in stages 1 or 2, favorably affects survival rates. When a later diagnosis is made, the survival rate drops considerably. At stages 3 and 4, the five-year survival rate for oral cancer is 58 percent.
When a medical malpractice attorney considers a plaintiff’s potential lawsuit, he or she will look for one or more of the following dentist errors:
Failure to biopsy lesions that qualify as having “marginal clinical suspicion”
Not re-examining a lesion in a patient with a medical history that suggests closer scrutiny
Bureaucratic bungling, when proper follow up with a patient and with diagnostic documents is not done
Failure to diagnose oral cancer is the second most common type of dental malpractice claim. Because life itself is at stake, or because latter diagnoses can require radical surgery to the neck, jaw and mouth, payouts in successful claims often exceed million.
No one affected by oral cancer considers this easy money. Ask any of the awardees if they would forgo the money in exchange for health and appearance, and it’s quite likely they would do so in a heartbeat. Those awards are based on medical expenses, lost wages (past and future) and up to 0,000 for pain and suffering. In the case of spouses, some of the settlement is for loss of consortium, which refers to the cessation of marital sexual relations that can result from advanced cancer.
A portion of the settlement goes to the representing attorney and related legal expenses. A personal injury attorney will spend hundreds of hours on such cases with no compensation from the client (typically medical malpractice lawyers work for a contingency, meaning, they earn nothing unless the lawsuit is successful). The firm will also hire consulting expert witnesses, themselves dentists or medical doctors who can interpret the medical history of the patient for the court.
For the case to succeed, the following must be proven in court:
The dental professional failed to uphold accepted standards of care, which is legally considered incompetence, negligence or intentional misconduct.
That act of incompetence, negligence or intentional misconduct is determined to be the cause of the advanced state of the oral cancer when it was finally identified and treated.
The damages you suffered have had a material effect on the quality of your life, the duration of life and your ability to function in relationships and in your career.
During a time of both physical and emotional stress for the oral cancer patient and loved ones, a lawsuit might seem like an additional burden. But the financial strain placed by serious illness and an inability to work may continue for years to come. Contacting a medical malpractice attorney is in fact an important means to ease that stress.
R. Klettke is a freelance writer. He writes about personal injury and medical malpractice law and other matters of jurisprudence.
Important Advisory: This article is not intended to provide legal advice upon which you or anyone else should rely in making any decisions regarding the instituting or prosecuting of a legal claim. Laws and rules relating to the bringing of a claim vary widely from state to state. You should always contact a personal injury attorney to obtain information as to the rules and the laws pertaining to any claim you might have.
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