Recent studies have shown that misdiagnosis is a common cause of medical malpractice suits. While the risks associated with an incorrect diagnosis may be significant, even life threatening, one recent case shows that these risks are not only physical, but also psychological.
In 2009, doctors at the Central Maine Medical Center diagnosed Wendell Strout with an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer. He was already at stage four, they said, and likely had only months to live.
Strout, an animal control officer, took weeks off from his job and agonized over how to take care of his wife after he passed. Weeks passed and doctors contacted Strout once again: their initial diagnosis had been incorrect. Strout actually had non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a blood cancer that is far more treatable than pancreatic cancer. Despite their earlier estimations that Strout had only months, doctors now said that his prognosis was good.
Although the news was welcome, it came as a tremendous shock. Earlier this year, Strout filed suit against the Central Maine Medical Center and his doctor, claiming that the initial misdiagnosis caused him extreme emotional distress.
Last week, a jury reached a verdict in Strout’s case. Although he had only asked for $150,000, the jury awarded him $200,000. The award was meant to compensate Strout not only for his tremendous emotional pain, but also his loss of enjoyment and loss of income.
Of course, Strout is fortunate that his condition was not as serious as first believed, but the jury recognized that receiving incorrect information can, indeed, be devastating.
Source: The Associated Press, “Cancer patient who was mistakenly told he’s going to die gets $200K for misdiagnosis,” June 14, 2013