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New York Medical Malpractice Laws May Discriminate Against Breast Cancer Patients

Physicians have long recommended that women receive annual mammograms beginning at the age of 40. A mammogram is a diagnostic screening process in which low-energy X-rays are taken of the human breast, male or female. Instances of breast cancer are much more common in women, which is the reason for the annual mammogram recommendation put in place by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

Findings presented during the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in December of 2010 indicated that half of the country’s insured female population does not receive annual mammograms. Approximately 40% of women over the age of 50 do not receive bi-annual screenings. Women report pain and discomfort as a major factor in their decision to postpone frequency of mammograms.

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Annual breast tissue screenings are the best defense today’s medical profession has against breast cancer. Early detection of breast cancer can result in a lumpectomy, as opposed to a mastectomy or double mastectomy. Removing the entirety of a woman’s breast tissue can lead to severe depression. If the cancer has spread throughout the body, it is very untreatable and will likely result in death.

A radiologist reviews the images of a mammogram for signs of possible breast cancer. Unfortunately, radiologists can make mistakes. If every single woman in the United States received her annual mammogram on time, this may not be as serious of an issue. However, with the known statistics of mammogram infrequency, a single mistake by a radiologist has more dire effects for the patient.

New York law states that the time a victim has to file a medical malpractice claim is within 2.5 years of the malpractice occurrence. There are exceptions in case a foreign object is left within the body or the patient continues treatment with the same medical provider. There are not any exceptions for women with breast cancer whose mammograms were initially misread.

A breast cancer diagnosis can be harrowing for both the patient and her family. When the cancer is discovered, it may be too late for the woman to be adequately treated. Death is an unnecessary outcome since the breast cancer should have been detected much earlier. There is little to nothing the family can do because the statute of limitations will not allow for legal recourse. As a result, the family will not receive any financial help with medical or funeral costs during their time of need.

Many legal professionals and New York citizens believe an extension to file a malpractice claim up to a year after breast cancer identification would be fair.

Reiter, Jonathan. “New York State Law May Unfairly Bar Women’s Medical Malpractice Lawsuits”. 06/07/2012.

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