As patients, we trust medical laboratories to keep track of samples, perform tests correctly, and provide us with timely and accurate results. Unfortunately, the frustrating reality is that medical labs make preventable errors on a regular basis, leading to thousands of injuries, illnesses, and fatalities each year. When lab technicians make mistakes, such as mixing up samples or giving incorrect diagnoses, patients suffer physical, emotional, and financial harm. When a serious diagnosis is missed or delayed, such as a missed cancer diagnosis, patients can even die.
The attorneys of Whitney, LLP represent the victims of testing and diagnostic errors by Bio-Reference Laboratories, which has locations in cities throughout Maryland. If you or one of your loved ones received inaccurate test results and became sick or suffered an injury as a result, our clinical malpractice attorneys are here to help you fight for the compensation you deserve. Call our law offices at (410) 583-8000 to start exploring your legal options in a free and completely confidential consultation.
Lab Tests Provided by Bio-Reference Laboratories
Bio-Reference Laboratories describes itself as “the third largest full service clinical diagnostic laboratory in the U.S.” Bio-Reference Laboratories locations in Maryland include Hagerstown, Halethorpe, Laurel, Olney, and Silver Spring. Its facilities are equipped to perform thousands of different lab tests, including:
- Blood tests
- Pap smears
- Plasma tests
- Serum tests
- Urine tests
Some of the medical conditions included in Bio-Reference Laboratories’ test directory include:
- Colon cancer
- Lung cancer
- Multiple myeloma/Kahler’s disease
- Ovarian cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Spindle cell neoplasm/spindle cell sarcoma
- Cystic fibrosis
- EBV (Epstein-Barr Virus)
- Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C
- HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)
- Lyme disease
- PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome)
- Genital warts/HPV (Human Papilloma Virus)
How Do Lab Testing Mistakes and Diagnostic Errors Happen?
Believe it or not, researchers have found that as many as 70% of all clinical lab errors occur before any samples are ever even tested. Studies have shown that the pre-testing stage of the lab-work process, which is known as the “pre-analytical phase,” is rife with significant errors. Some of the most common examples include:
- Carelessly forgetting to send requested samples.
- Failing to include all of the necessary information with samples.
- Placing samples inside improper types of containers, which can break, leak, or admit unwanted substances.
- Putting the wrong amount of anti-coagulant into blood samples, which can cause the samples to clot.
- Using improper methods to ship samples to labs, which can cause them to be damaged by heat, cold, humidity, or rough handling.
Once the pre-analytical phase concludes, the “analytical phase” begins. This is the stage of the process where samples undergo testing by lab technicians. While errors during this stage are less common, when they do occur, they can have catastrophic results for patients. Errors during the analytical phase include:
- Failing to calibrate, prep, or use equipment properly.
- Improper supervision of beginner or inexperienced lab technicians.
- Using outdated techniques, machines, or pieces of equipment.
- The third and final stage of having lab-work processed is called the “post-analytical phase.” This is when lab technicians prepare reports on their findings and inform patients and physicians of the test results – or at least, that is what is supposed to occur. When lab technicians fail to adequately follow up with patients and doctors, patients lose opportunities to get the treatments they need.
- In other cases, lab technicians simply don’t interpret test results correctly, and consequently give false information to doctors and patients.
Regardless of when they occur, lab mistakes generally lead to one of the following outcomes:
- False negative readings, which indicate health even though a patient is ill.
- False positive readings, which indicate illness even though a patient is healthy.
- Misdiagnoses and/or delayed diagnoses, which can cause harmful or even fatal lags in the time it takes for a sick patient to get surgery or to start a treatment plan.
Unreliable Medical Tests and Difficult to Diagnose Conditions
As medical science advances, certain tests become less and less reliable. The following list includes some, but not all, lab tests which have either been superseded by more effective methods, have been recommended against by medical societies such as the American Heart Association, or have become obsolete and out-of-date:
- Bolen’s test (for cancer)
- Colloidal gold tests
- Lupus erythematosus (LE) cell tests
- Mechanical fragility tests (for red blood cells)
- Rehfuss tests (for gastric acidity)
- Rumpel-Leede capillary fragility tests
- Various skin tests, including skin tests for:
- Brucellosis (Mediterranean fever)
- Lymphoreticulosis (cat scratch fever)
- Psittacosis (ornithosis, parrot fever)
- Trichinosis (roundworm infection)
Some examples of medical conditions which are difficult to accurately diagnose and test for include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Cancer and malignant tumors
- Breast cancer
- Colorectal cancer
- Kidney cancer/renal cell carcinoma
- Lung cancer
- Malignant mesothelioma
- NET cancers (neuroendocrine tumors)
- Ovarian cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Celiac disease
- Hepatitis C
- Lyme disease
- Mitochondrial disease
- Thyroid disease (hypothyroidism/hyperthyroidism)
If you or one of your family members received a false positive, false negative, delayed diagnosis, or missed diagnosis from a Bio-Reference Laboratories anywhere in Maryland, you may be entitled to compensation for your pain, suffering, and financial losses. To set up a free and confidential legal consultation, call the misdiagnosis attorneys of Whitney, LLP at (410) 583-8000.