What Is Laboratory Malpractice?

Laboratory MalpracticeLaboratory personnel have a myriad of responsibilities, from collecting and testing samples to interpreting and recording results. It is the responsibility of the laboratory personnel to administer test results in an accurate, understandable, and timely manner. Failure to do so could result in an act of medical malpractice.

Laboratory errors are more common than you might think. In 2018, about 51% of all claims involving diagnostic-related medical errors involved lab tests:

  • Ordering of tests: 22% of all claims
  • Performance of tests: 3%
  • Receipt and/or transmittal of tests: 4%
  • Interpretation of test results: 22%

The study which analyzed this data looked at more than 10,600 closed claims. That means more than 5,400 patients’ lives were negatively affected by errors made involving laboratory tests.

What are some examples of laboratory malpractice?

Some examples of laboratory malpractice include rushing the lab results, mixing up patient samples, mislabeling samples, constantly delaying testing of a patient sample, using wrong or faulty equipment, and sloppy sample taking.

Laboratory personnel can also commit malpractice when samples are contaminated, when the incorrect and inaccurate information is recorded, when the results of a test are not communicated in a timely manner, or when the necessary follow up tests are not ordered in a timely manner. When the results of a test are not clearly defined, or there seem to be interpreting errors in the results, these actions can be viewed as critical laboratory errors that can result in medical malpractice.

What are the consequences of laboratory malpractice?

The consequences of laboratory malpractice can be deadly for patients. If a lab professional mixes up a patient’s samples, it can lead to a misdiagnosis. This can lead to patients wasting a significant amount of time and money paying for medication and tests that they do not need. In addition to the waste of time and money, patients could be subjecting themselves to harmful treatments for a condition that does not exist.

Another consequence is that a patient can be suffering from another condition that has gone untreated due to a misdiagnosis. While there are many conditions that can become worse due to misdiagnosis, there are fatal conditions such as cancer that can result in serious injury or death for the patient if the diagnosis has gone unnoticed for an extended period of time.

There is also the possibility of spreading infectious diseases to others without knowing it. If the patient suffers from a condition that is transmittable, and the lab does not take the proper safety precautions for handling and storing the samples, there could be the potential for an outbreak. We know this seems a little far-fetched (even for Dustin Hoffman fans), but it is not unprecedented. In 1978, a scientist contracted smallpox and her local hospital botched the lab results. In this case, the hospital managed to avoid a pandemic, but mistakes made with lab tests and samples are linked to healthcare-associated infections (HAI), and some of those infections are deadly.

How can laboratory errors be proven as medical malpractice in court?

When a patient is harmed by the actions of a medical professional, that is grounds for a potential medical malpractice lawsuit. To prove that a medical professional has committed an act of medical malpractice, there are four factors that must be met in a court of law:

  • The first factor that must be met is that the medical professional had an obligation towards the patient to provide a certain standard of care.
  • The second factor that must be met is that the medical professional violated that standard of care through
  • The third factor that must be met is that there must be evidence to show that the violation of the standard of care caused direct harm to the patient.
  • The final factor that must be met is that the harm inflicted on the patient has caused significant damages. Examples of significant damage to the patient can be pain and suffering, health conditions, and things of that nature.

Laboratory errors can be difficult to prove depending on the type of error, and cases can be complex because  multiple parties can be held liable, including the hospital, an outside lab, your doctor, and others. This is why you want to work with an experienced Maryland medical malpractice attorney on your claim. We know how to read and analyze medical records and case histories, and we know how the law applies when someone is hurt. We also have a network of professional resources and experts we can rely on to help build your case.

At Plaxen Adler Muncy, P.A. we represent victims of medical malpractice throughout Maryland. If you are unsure whether or not your injuries were related to lab errors, we can review your claim and guide you toward your best path forward. Call our office at 410-730-7737 or complete the contact form on our website to schedule a consultation with a Maryland medical malpractice attorney today.