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Cancer misdiagnosis may have lowered child’s chance of survival

When a child is ill, Chicago parents put their trust in doctors to make an accurate diagnosis so that their child can get better. Although the illnesses many Illinois pediatricians and family doctors diagnose on a daily basis are the common cold, ear infections or the flu, physicians must not be too quick to rule out other serious infections or diseases. Failing to overlook important warning signs that a child could be suffering from something far more serious could cause the child to experience further health complications.

The family of a 5-year-old girl in Minnesota knows all too well how a misdiagnosis can affect a child’s health and future. The girl’s parents said that a bump had been growing on their daughter for about a year after she was born, but the child’s doctor did not diagnose her condition. About a year after her birth, a pediatric oncologist diagnosed the girl with a rare and aggressive muscular cancer. The family has since sued the child’s doctor claiming that the child’s life expectancy has been significantly reduced as a result of the cancer misdiagnosis.

By the time the child was diagnosed with the cancer, it had already spread throughout her body. Now experts claim that failing to diagnose the cancer while it was still in its early stages may cost the girl her life. The cancer is certainly aggressive, but had it been diagnosed and treated in a timely manner, the child would have had a 60 percent chance of surviving. Experts believe that as a result of the delayed cancer diagnosis, the 5-year-old girl’s chance of survival was significantly reduced to 40 percent.

Over the past four years, the child has undergone surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. However, the cancer continues to come back. Now the child’s chance of survival is only 5 percent.

The family’s lawsuit was originally dismissed after a judge concluded that the child’s low chance of survival was a result of the type of cancer she suffers from. However, an appeals court has ruled that the family can proceed with the lawsuit that claims that the girl’s doctor was negligent. The court concluded that because the child’s chance of survival is now “improbable,” a jury could reach the conclusion that the delayed diagnosis significantly affected the child’s chances of survival had she been treated much sooner.

Source: Star Tribune, “Will false diagnosis cost Minnesota girl her life?” Abby Simons, Jan. 4, 2011


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