Medical Sample Mix Up Lawyers
Lab tests are an essential step in the diagnostic process, and when samples are compromised it may damage a treatment plan or set back an accurate diagnosis by weeks or months. Nearly 70 percent of medical decisions made in the US today are made on the basis of the results of these tests, giving an importance to the integrity of samples that they have never before had.
When diagnoses are missed or delayed as a result of sample mix ups, it can contribute to the risk of the recurrence, spread or severity of a condition — such as certain cancers, where early detection is crucial — or in sustaining injuries that are preventable, such as birth injuries that may be avoidable through careful monitoring of a mother’s bloodwork.
Sample Mix Ups Often Lead to Misdiagnoses
A prominent malpractice insurer attributes 52 percent of their medical malpractice claims to errors in the diagnostic and lab testing process. This includes sample mix ups, which can be complicated by various other errors in the testing pathway, involving:
- The use of inappropriate tests
- Improper execution of tests
- Improper handling of specimens
- Contaminated specimens
- Delayed testing of a specimen
- Mislabeling test samples
- Misinterpreted test results
- Poor communication of test results
- Inaccurate interpretation of test results
- Unnecessarily repeated tests or additional diagnostics
Clinician taking a blood sample. Source: Pixnio.com, shared under a Creative Commons Zero license
How Sample Mix Ups Happen
Although testing labs play a crucial role in modern healthcare, they are rarely held accountable for missteps. Of the 35,000 labs that perform high-level testing in the US, only 90 received any kind of sanctioning in 2013 — a meager 0.2 percent. Even though accurate tallies for lab mistakes don’t exist on a national level, this number seems low.
This poor oversight is compounded by the approach of testing labs, and the many hands that samples usually pass through. This limits individual accountability.
Lab mistakes can occur in the following ways:
- Organizational errors like rushed results and careless handling of samples
- Equipment failures
- Analytical errors in interpreting results
- Ambiguous, unclear results
- Recording errors
- Lost results
- Communication lapses
Source: Pxfuel.com, shared under a Creative Commons Zero license
The Consequences of Mixing Up Samples
In many cases, negligent sample handling is merely an inconvenience; in other cases, it can do real harm to a patient. The following are examples of measurable harm caused by sample mix ups:
- False positives reported to patients, who must suffer the anguish of preparing for life with a serious condition they do not have, such as HIV/AIDS or cancer
- Delayed or missed diagnosis of conditions that patients do have, which can worsen the prognosis of progressive illnesses
- Avoidable injury resulting from a missed diagnosis, as is the case with undiagnosed birth defects or birth injuries that could have been subject to a timely intervention
When Can Sample Mix Ups Be Termed Malpractice?
Although lab technicians aren’t doctors, they can still legally be held to a standard of care regarding their responsibilities to a patient. Furthermore, the many people involved in the handling of a sample may limit their individual responsibility — however, the lab itself assumes responsibility in such cases.
A malpractice suit must prove the following occurred:
- There was a duty of care between the patient and the technician
- A breach of this duty occurred
- The breach of duty was the direct cause of an injury to the patient
- The patient suffered quantifiable harm as a result of the injury
When to Consult with an Experienced Malpractice Attorney
Sample mix ups are 100 percent avoidable — and in some cases, they may cause serious injury or a worsened future outlook for a patient’s condition. The best course of action if you feel that a sample mix up has affected you or a loved one is to consult with skilled attorneys like those at McEldrew Young Purtell as soon as possible. With 30 years of experience in medical malpractice, McEldrew Young Purtell is well suited to evaluate the situation and help determine if the injury suffered involved acts of medical negligence or professional malpractice.