Category: Cancer

Delayed Cancer Diagnosis Can Give Rise to a Medical Malpractice Claim in Canada

by John McKiggan

It’s scary to hear the words, “You have cancer.” But the distress and concern of worrying about your health can be compounded by the realization that the diagnosis was delayed, allowing the cancer to grow and spread.

A delayed cancer diagnosis can give rise to a medical malpractice claim. This type of claim, however, faces many challenges that malpractice lawyers and their clients should be aware of.
Many Canadians will face a cancer diagnosis at some point
The Canadian Cancer Society reports that 2 of 5 Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetime, and that 1 of 4 will die from cancer.  Since the 5-year survival rate of someone with cancer is about 63% (it varies according to the type of cancer) a missed or delayed diagnosis means that a patient may have missed a lifesaving opportunity for treatment.
Earlier Diagnosis =  Better Results
TNM - Stages of Cancer Graphic related to Delayed Cancer DiagnosisGenerally speaking, if one is diagnosed early, there is a greater chance of survival. But, what if a medical practitioner acts negligently in determining the health of a patient? There may be grounds for a medical malpractice claim if a doctor’s unreasonable delays in diagnosing cancer mean the patient loses the opportunity for effective medical care.
You Cannot Sue for “Loss of Chance” in Canada
Medical malpractice claims relating to a delayed diagnosis face many hurdles in Canada. Americans plaintiffs can try to show that a physician’s delayed diagnosis reduced their chances for successful treatments, by some percentage. Say a plaintiff in the U.S. claims that a delayed diagnosis reduced the chance of successful treatment by 20%. The plaintiff, then, can try to sue for 20% of potential future losses. This is called “loss of chance”. You cannot sue a medical practitioner for “loss of chance” like one could in the United States.
Burden of Proof in Cancer Claims
A plaintiff in Canada must show more than just a possible loss of chance. Plaintiffs in this country have to prove, on the balance of probabilities, that an earlier diagnosis would have changed the outcome of treatment. Meaning that they would likely not have experienced the loss had they been diagnosed earlier.

While difficult to prove, there are several ways plaintiffs and their medical malpractice lawyers can show that a missed or delayed diagnosis caused enough harm to win damages in a cancer misdiagnosis case.
Showing Causation
Cancer misdiagnosis claims in Canada must begin with the plaintiff proving causation, which means certain circumstances need to be established, on the balance of probabilities, through examination of legal and medical issues. These circumstances include:

Posted in: Cancer

Time Limits in Medical Malpractice Claim: When Does Discoverability Rule Apply?

by John McKiggan

“How Long Do I Have to File a Medical Malpractice Claim?”

As a medical malpractice lawyer in Nova Scotia, I get asked that question a lot. But the answer is rarely simple or straightforward.

Every province in Canada has a Statute of Limitations, a law that places a time-limit on how long a plaintiff can wait before filing a lawsuit in court. For example, in Nova Scotia, the time-limit for filing a medical malpractice claim is 2 years from the date of the alleged negligence or injury.

Informed Consent: Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics in Cancer Claims – Gilberds v. Sobey

by John McKiggan

I read an interesting decision out of Alberta recently, Gilberds v. Sobey that deals with informed consent to medical treatment and whether statistical information should be given to patients to help them determine if they will undergo treatment.

The case is interesting (at least to those of us doing medical malpractice litigation) because it also touches on the issues of what medical malpractice claimants need to prove to win their claims and the standard of care in medical malpractice claims.

Justice Ross pointed out the importance of statistical evidence at paragraph 81 of her decision:
I agree with Ferrier J. that effective communication of treatment risks requires some information on the probability of a particular result: Matuzich v. Lieberman. The degree of probability of a risk is obviously relevant to reasonable patients considering whether they want to undergo treatment; indeed the degree of probability is one of the factors that qualifies a risk as material.
I go into more detail about the facts of the decision and it’s importance to medical malpractice claims on my Atlantic Canada Personal Injury Lawyer Blog.

Busy Doctors Do Not Have a Lower Standard of Care: Ontario Supreme Court

by John McKiggan

Reasons for judgement were released recently in the case of McLintock v. Alidina.

The plaintiff, Ann McLintock alleged negligence on the part of her family physician, Dr. Alidina, because Alidina hd failed to advise the plaintiff of the results of mammogram testing. McLintock had to undergo a course of 25 radiation treatments and surgical intervention as a result of the alleged delay.

Different Standards for Different Doctors?

Court Refuses to Fast Track Nova Scotia Medical Malpractice Claim of Elderly Plaintiff – Langille v. Dzierzanowski

by John McKiggan

The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia just released its decision in Langille v. Dzierzanowski .

Elderly Plaintiff

The plaintiff, Walter Murray Langille, is 91 years old. He filed a medical malpractice claim against the defendants alleging they removed part of his colon because they mistakenly diagnosed him with colon cancer.

NL Radiologist Suspended for Second Time

by John McKiggan

X-Ray Errors

Central Newfoundland Regional Health Authority has suspended a radiologist for the second time since 2007. Dr. John Ozoh was removed from his duties after a review of 2,500 of Ozoh’s radiology reports. 20% of the reports required “edits” and 120 of the errors were:
“…potentially clinically significant,”
according to the Health Authority.

Does “Clinically Significant” Mean Dangerous?

Woman with Terminal Cancer Sues Doctor for Negligence

by John McKiggan

Sylvie Deslongchamps has terminal cervical cancer. She is suing her family doctor for medical malpractice for failing to make a phone call that she says could have saved her life.

Patient Did What She Was Supposed to Do

In 2007 Ms. Delongchamps did what ever careful woman is supposed to do. She went for a checkup and pap-smear with her gynecologist. She says she told her doctor about her family history of cervical cancer. She never heard back from the doctor so she assumed that her test results were fine.

Failure to Diagnose Cancer: Do I Have a Medical Malpractice Claim?

by John McKiggan

Highest Cancer rates in Canada

Nova Scotia has the highest cancer rates in the country. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, 40% of Canadian women and 45% of men will develop cancer during their lifetime. I have been asked to review dozens of cases where clients have suffered various forms of cancer which they believe went undiagnosed by their doctor.

What Questions Should You Ask?

99% Of Potential Medical Malpractice Victims Never File a Claim!

by John McKiggan

Almost 100,000 Medical Mistakes Each Year in Canada

The Canadian Medical Association has determined that over 87,000 patients in Canada suffer an adverse event (medical error or mistake) each year.

The same study determined that more than 24,000 people die each year due to medical errors.

The Consumer’s Guide to Medical Malpractice Claims in Canada

by John McKiggan

Why Did You Write The Book?

I get asked that a lot. There’s a ton of work that goes into writing a book about medical malpractice claims. Most books about the topic are written by lawyers, for lawyers, and they are pretty dry reading.

I wanted to write a book that the average person could pick up and read and come away better educated and informed about the medical malpractice claims process and what is involved in filing a medical malpractice claim.