Patients rely on doctors, and doctors rely on medical labs. When a medical lab makes an error, such as mixing up blood samples or failing to read test results correctly, the doctor who ordered the test receives flawed information – and passes it on to his or her patient. When a doctor unknowingly bases his or her decisions on inaccurate test results, no amount of medical skill can prevent the patient from being harmed. The lab error might result in the patient being prescribed inappropriate medications, recommended for unnecessary surgery, or delayed in getting life-saving care.
If you or someone you love was the victim of a lab test mistake or diagnostic error by Meritus Medial Laboratory, which operates facilities throughout Maryland, the experienced clinical malpractice attorneys of Whitney, LLP are here to fight for the greatest compensation possible for you and your family. To set up a free and private legal consultation, call our law offices right away at (410) 583-8000. Our line is always open, including nights and weekends.
Lab Tests Provided by Meritus Medical Laboratory in MD
Meritus Medical Laboratory is a full-service laboratory with Maryland locations in Boonsboro, Hancock, Smithsburg, Williamsport, and Hagerstown. Collection of samples and specimens is handled by a staff of about 60 phlebotomists, who are assisted by registration clerks, couriers, and other support staff.
Meritus sites are equipped to conduct a variety of medical tests, including tests related to:
- Molecular diagnostics
Conditions Meritus labs test for include:
- Bladder cancer
- Celiac disease
- Cystic fibrosis
- Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C
- HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)
- HSV (Herpes Simplex Virus)
- Lyme disease
- Thyroid cancer
What Are the Most Types of Common Lab Testing Errors?
There are three phases to having lab-work done:
- The pre-analytical phase, which is involves the labeling, transportation, and organization of samples and specimens. In short, the pre-analytical stage covers all of the necessary prep-work before screening begins.
- The analytical phase, which is when samples and specimens are actually tested.
- The post-analytical phase, which is when lab technicians analyze and report back on test results.
This may come as a surprise, but most lab errors actually occur during the pre-analytical stage, before a single test is ever performed. According to a recent study, more than two thirds of all lab mistakes take place during this part of the process, with some of the most commonly-reported errors including:
- Inappropriate transportation conditions, such as extreme heat or rough handling, which can break sample containers or cause the samples to degrade.
- Missing or incomplete information being attached to samples.
- Putting the wrong amount of anti-coagulant into blood samples, which can cause them to clot before they even arrive at the lab.
- Shipping samples in inappropriate containers, which can leak, break, or allow the samples inside to become contaminated.
While the pre-analytical phase is the riskiest, the chance of human error persists throughout the next two stages of the process. During the analytical phase, lab technicians can make mistakes such as:
- Using equipment or machinery improperly (e.g. failing to calibrate correctly).
- Using out-of-date tests which have been replaced by newer, more accurate screening methods.
Finally, once the tests have been completed, there’s a risk that the lab technician could:
- Call the wrong doctor or patient after mixing up two patients’ test results.
- Delay following up with the doctor or person who requested the test.
- Make a careless error on their paperwork.
- Misread the results of the test.
False Positives, False Negatives, and Delayed or Missed Diagnosis
When a laboratory technician makes an error, a few different outcomes can result:
- The patient receives a false positive. A false positive reading is a reading that says the patient has a disease, even though he or she is actually healthy. When a patient receives a false positive, their doctor might put them on medication they do not actually need to take, or have them undergo an unnecessary procedure. This results in unnecessary medical expenditures, and, more importantly, physical injury to the patient. Many medications have incredibly harsh side-effects, and some even have the potential to cause organ damage or organ failure if misused.
- The patient receives a false negative. A false negative reading is a reading that says the patient is healthy, even though they actually have a disease or disorder. When a patient thinks they have a clean bill of health, they lose critical, time-sensitive opportunities to intervene with a treatment plan. If the false negative relates to a life-threatening illness like cancer or diabetes, the patient could even die, or receive a worse prognosis than they would have otherwise.
- The patient is misdiagnosed with the wrong condition. Many medical conditions have symptoms which mimic those of other conditions, which can result in lab results being misinterpreted even if the test is performed correctly. Some conditions which are commonly misdiagnosed include:
- Celiac disease, commonly mistaken for Crohn’s disease.
- Fibromyalgia, commonly mistaken for rheumatoid arthritis.
- Lupus, commonly mistaken for fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Lyme disease, commonly mistaken for mono, meningitis, the flu, and even depression.
- Many types of cancer, notably breast cancer, lung cancer, and colorectal cancer.
Another issue with medical misdiagnoses is that they delay the patient in getting the correct diagnosis. The longer it takes for a patient to start addressing the real condition, the worse its symptoms become. By the time the proper diagnosis is received, the patient might need to receive aggressive, invasive, expensive treatments in lieu of simple antibiotics, ointments, or prescription pills.
If you or one of your loved ones received a misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, false positive, or false negative because of a lab mix-up at Meritus Medical Laboratory, you may be entitled to compensation. The diagnostic error attorneys of Whitney, LLP can help. Call our law offices at (410) 583-8000 to schedule a free, private legal consultation.