No Recourse for Florida Woman Wrongly Diagnosed With Cancer

No Recourse for Florida Woman Wrongly Diagnosed With Cancer

Nobody wants to get told that they have cancer. The word “cancer” evokes a lot of fear in people. They think of death, as many forms of cancer are terminal, especially if not caught in time. 

When you are told you have cancer and later find out it was the wrong diagnosis and you have no cancer at all, shouldn’t you be relieved? You should, but getting such a diagnosis can force you to make many changes to your life. You may cancel vacations. You may quit your job. You may do all the things on your bucket list. Or maybe you will run up a lot of debt on your credit cards because, who cares, you are going to die anyway. 

While being told later on that you do not really have cancer after all can be a huge sigh of relief, it can also be a hard pill to swallow. You have spent a lot of time worrying about your shortened life span. You have made arrangements. You have planned your death. Now what?

A Florida woman is grappling with this same issue. She was told she had cancer. She asked the doctor several times if she really had cancer. The hospital confirmed it two days before Christmas. The holidays were ruined. The woman and her husband were inconsolable. They canceled a six-week vacation they had planned, even though it cost $10,000 and was nonrefundable. 

The diagnosis weighed heavily on the mind of the 59-year-old woman and her 73-year-old husband. In September 2021, she had been warned by her dermatologist that she could have a certain skin cancer that spreads to other organs. She received a phone call on December 23 that laboratory tests from University of Florida (UF) Health had confirmed the diagnosis. 

Two months later, she got new test results from the Moffitt Cancer Center. They were very different from the original ones. In fact, she was cancer-free and did not need any treatment.

The woman was relieved, but those two months were full of anguish. She made a lot of decisions based on her cancer diagnosis. Plus, a misdiagnosis is considered a form of medical malpractice

However, Florida is strict when it comes to medical malpractice. State law rarely provides recourse for patients who have experienced a medical misdiagnosis or mistreatment but have suffered no permanent injury or death. 

On top of that, medical malpractice lawsuits are hard to fight and win. They must be backed up by expensive experts. Since personal injury lawyers only get paid when they win a case, they are reluctant to take on cases where the possibility of substantial compensation is very low. 

These hurdles have made it so those who have suffered from short-term damages cannot be fairly compensated. The woman in this case asked several lawyers to take on her misdiagnosis case. However, she was told there would not be much compensation for her. The lawyer and the expert would get paid, and she would be left with hardly anything. It just would not be worth it.

The woman’s cancer diagnosis stemmed from a biopsy of two small lumps on her back and shoulder. The samples were sent to UF Health. Her dermatologist told her she had B-cell lymphoma, which is a fast-spreading form of cancer that can be treated with chemotherapy.

The dermatology clinic referred her to Moffitt, where doctors drew 17 tubes of blood and performed new biopsies. Doctors there did show that the woman had T-cell lymphoproliferative disorder, which is a skin condition that causes rashes, itching, and sometimes even tumors. She was given topical cream.

When told she had cancer, the woman upgraded her medical insurance to a $1,400-a-month policy. She still had to pay $4,250 out of pocket for the tests and consultation. The woman has paid more than $20,000 out of pocket. She contacted attorneys but was told she should not expect much in court because she is healthy and would not receive enough money to cover court costs. 

That is because even minor medical malpractice cases must all go through the same process. The cost of attorneys and medical experts alone could exceed $100,000. And if a patient did not suffer any injuries, juries are unlikely to award a huge sum of money. 

Besides a lawsuit, though, a patient can file a complaint with the Florida Medical Board or with the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. If a doctor receives multiple complaints, it can lead to an investigation and sanctions. The woman did file a complaint with a laboratory accreditation service run by the College of American Pathologists. 

The woman contacted UF Health to get the skin cancer diagnosis removed from her medical records. The hospital finally agreed to have the National Cancer Institute review sample slides from the Moffitt biopsy. The doctors confirmed Moffitt’s diagnosis.

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Getting a diagnosis of a terminal disease like cancer can be the worst news ever. While later getting a clean bill of health can be comforting, there is still mental anguish involved in getting a diagnosis of this nature. This should be considered medical malpractice, but it is not. 

Think you have a medical malpractice case? Let the team at Brill & Rinaldi, The Law Firm assess your case and help you understand your next steps and legal options. Schedule a free consultation today by calling (954) 876-4344 or filling out the online form. We have offices in Weston, Coral Gables, and Daytona Beach.