Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many medical tests, screenings, procedures, and healthcare services were limited. Healthcare resources were mostly directed to COVID-19 patients and emergency healthcare.
Routine tests, screenings, and procedures were delayed. Now, some people are finding that if a procedure was not delayed, the disease would have been diagnosed earlier.
Let’s look at the delayed diagnosis of cancer.
A missed diagnosis
According to The Legal Intelligencer, “It is anticipated that there will be approximately 86,000 new cases of cancer diagnosed this year in Pennsylvania.”
However, the concerns of these cancer patients, especially those in the late stages of the disease, are that maybe their diagnosis could have been found sooner if testing, screening, and procedures were not delayed during the pandemic.
Do these patients have legal recourse regarding their situation? If it’s regarding the delayed testing or screening during the pandemic restrictions, probably not. However, as screening and testing start again, perhaps more resources should be put forth to make up for the delays, and, if they are not, this could be a reason for legal action.
As procedures resume, priorities are given to patients who received an abnormal result, say in a cervical cancer screening, before the lockdown. Next are patients who had abnormal results the year before. After that, all other patients whose appointments were delayed during the pandemic.
If the backlogs are substantial, leaving patients to not be screened for some time after the pandemic restrictions are lifted, this could be a viable reason for a claim.
Lung cancer confused with COVID-19 symptoms
Because COVID-19 and lung cancer symptoms are somewhat similar, especially when there is a persistent cough present, lung cancer could have been misdiagnosed as COVID-19.
Since patients were assessed online or over the telephone because of the lockdown, this can contribute to the misdiagnosis as well.
Recourse for this scenario would be difficult unless the diagnosis was made without taking other symptoms into account, like coughing up blood or an unexplained weight loss. Ignoring the patient’s history could be a reason for a claim as well.