Even highly skilled doctors can’t always make a diagnosis on their own. In most cases, they rely upon medical laboratories to provide them with additional information, like the results of a blood test, urine test, oral scrape, or stool sample. In fact, researchers have found that most diagnoses and treatment plans are based on medical tests: about 70%, by most estimates.
When a medical laboratory performs a test incorrectly, loses information about a sample, or makes other errors, the patient is all but guaranteed to suffer severe harm, even if it takes several years for the harm to become apparent. This is especially true in cases where the patient is suffering from a life-threatening medical condition, such as cancer or cardiovascular disease, where a missed or even delayed diagnosis can deprive the patient of years of life.
If SMA Medical Laboratory made a mistake on your lab test, you could be entitled to compensation to help support you and your family during this difficult time. Call the experienced attorneys of Whitney, LLP at (410) 583-8000 to talk about your case in a free, completely confidential legal consultation. We will help you understand which steps to take next.
Did SMA Medical Laboratory Make a Mistake on Your Lab Test?
SMA Medical Laboratory has Maryland locations in Bowie, Bladensburg, Pasadena, and Laurel. Staffed by cytologists, phlebotomists, medical lab technicians, medical technologists, and histopathologists, SMA provides lab tests for conditions including but not limited to:
- Food allergies
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
- HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)
- Respiratory allergies
- Rubella (German measles)
- Thyroid disorders
Tests currently provided by SMA include:
- ANA screening
- CA 125
- CA 15.3
- CBC (Complete Blood Count)
- CMV IgG
- Cortisol AM/PM
- Lipid panel
- Occult blood, stool
- Platelet count
- PT INR
- Reticulocyte count
- Rheumatoid factor IgM AB
- Total IgE
- Uric acid
- WBC count (White Blood Cell)
When Are Laboratories Liable?
Most people have heard the term medical malpractice, which describes a situation where a patient is injured or killed by a doctor’s mistakes or misconduct. This concept is the same for laboratory negligence, except for one major difference: medical malpractice applies to surgeons, anesthetists, specialists, and so forth, whereas laboratory negligence applies to medical laboratories and those who staff them, such as lab technicians (people who prepare specimens and perform tests), medical technologists (people who interpret data and monitor programs), and phlebotomists (people who draw blood). Unlike doctors, lab workers rarely interact face-to-face with the patients whose samples they are testing.
Like all professionals in the medical field, lab workers are responsible for taking every reasonable measure to minimize the risk of foreseeable harm to patients. When a lab worker fails in any way to meet this standard of care – for instance, accidentally mixing up two patients’ samples – he or she has acted negligently, and could possibly be liable for compensating the victim.
Disturbing though it is to consider, the unsettling reality is that human carelessness and inattention are the cause of most lab errors. Despite the extremely stringent standards to which medical professionals are held, the fact remains that hundreds of thousands of people are killed by avoidable medical mistakes each year, making medical errors one of the leading causes of death in the United States. The number of deaths caused specifically by lab test mistakes is unclear, but the huge number of test-dependent medical decisions means there are countless opportunities for disaster to strike.
These opportunities arise constantly throughout the lab testing process, from the moment a sample is taken to the moment the doctor is contacted with test results. Studies have found that most errors happen during the “pre-analytical phase,” when samples are still being organized, stored, and prepared. Some common examples include:
- Keeping samples in the wrong conditions for storage and/or transportation.
- Storing samples in the wrong types of containers.
- Failing to send requested samples.
- Sending samples that are too small to be tested effectively.
- Accidentally letting blood samples clot.
- Losing a sample before it can be tested.
The “analytical phase” describes the testing itself. At this stage of the process, common errors include:
- Performing the wrong type of test.
- Testing the wrong sample.
- Failing to properly prep or sterilize any machinery used for testing.
- Performing the test incorrectly.
- Testing a sample which is tainted or expired.
The final phase, the “post-analytical phase,” covers the steps that come after testing is completed: analysis and disclosure of results. Common mistakes during this part of the process include:
- Failing to notify the doctor of results within a reasonable timeframe.
- Failing to seek clarification when test results are ambiguous or poorly understood.
- Losing a patient’s test results.
- Accidentally notifying a doctor about the wrong patient’s results.
If you were the victim of any of these common errors, or a medical laboratory mistake you do not see listed here, call the misdiagnosis attorneys of Whitney, LLP at (410) 583-8000. Our experienced, knowledgeable team of attorneys is here for you around the clock.