There is a wide spread misconception that laboratory results are always accurate because of the science involved in testing. Although the science is sound, business practices in many laboratories lead to a high number of serious and debilitating errors.
Laboratory is a Business
Over the years, mergers in laboratories performing diagnostic testing have resulted in an oligopoly where there are only a handful of BIG laboratories that perform the majority of laboratory tests. The competition between these laboratories is fierce as they try to outdo each other by cutting prices. Maintaining lower prices induces referrals by doctors who readily switch from Hospital Laboratories to these BIG Business Labs. The BIG business laboratories make up profits by expecting speed in production from their employees who are now “encouraged” to double and triple their workloads. This is how laboratory business has gone from being focused on quality to one that is now focused on speed. With speed and increased productions, there is no time for laboratory employees to verify information that they normally would. It is therefore not uncommon that mistakes are made in the form of:
- Technical errors in locating and interpreting results
- Failure to perform and maintain positive patient identification which results in patient information and sample mix up
- Sacrificing quality for speed can result in sample contamination
An unsatisfactory result on a patient’s sample is viewed as a nuisance by the physician collecting the sample. The physician will have to repeat the testing at no cost to the patient. Naturally, the physicians do not like getting unsatisfactory results and pressure the laboratory for a rescreen of the original test. The laboratories do not like performing rescreens because their production and bottom line is affected. It is not uncommon for laboratories to bend industry guidelines to appease the physician and result unsatisfactory samples as satisfactory. Such practices can have unintended consequences for the patients.
With the emphasis on speed rather than accuracy, there is an increased incidence of failure to diagnose progressive diseases like cancer. For example, multiple cases have been brought against laboratories for failure to diagnose precancerous cells in pap smear tests where patients later developed cervical cancer. Some young females had to have total hysterectomies and face with the reality of never being able to conceive because laboratories failed to correctly diagnose precancerous cells where a biopsy would have sufficed to eradicate the threat of cancer.
In other cases, false positive diagnoses have caused patients to have surgeries that they did not need. Some patients have been disfigured because of such false positive results. False positive results can also have serious consequences on employees who are routinely tested at work.
SERVICES FOR LABORATORY MALPRACTICE
If you have had routine screening laboratory tests, such as pap smears, that have been reported as normal and you now have cervical cancer or have been injured because of a missed laboratory test, please contact Noorani & Villar. Our network of medical malpractice attorneys will fight for your dignity. Medical errors can have a permanent impact upon a patient and our network of attorneys will fight to ensure that our clients’ future medical care is not a burden they need to face alone when their injuries are a result of medical negligence.
Please contact Noorani & Villar, P.C., if you are considering a medical malpractice claim against a medical practitioner or healthcare provider for laboratory malpractice.