Unexpected Weight Loss

August 28, 2020 | Uncategorized | By Personal Injury Legal Directory | 0 Comments

As a medical malpractice lawyer, I have reviewed numerous cases involving a delayed diagnosis of cancer.  One presenting sign of cancer can be unanticipated weight loss.  Following is a discussion of how unanticipated weight loss factors into the analysis of a medical negligence claim.

The proof of a medical negligence claim involves 3 elements: negligence, proximate cause and damages. Negligence occurs when a physician, nurse or other health care provider falls below accepted standards of medical care. These accepted standards of medical care may be found in professional guidelines or recommendations, regulations or, most commonly, common sense.

The second element of a medical negligence claim, proximate cause, can be highly complicated. Law students spend several weeks studying this concept, but jurors are expected to understand it in the course of a two-week trial with no prior training. There are 2 simple ways to look at the concept of proximate cause. First, imagine a row of dominoes wherein an initial act sets forth a series of ensuing acts. Tracing the line of falling dominoes, one can see that they trace back to an original act of negligence or negligent failure to act. Another way to look at the proximate cause is to go back to the point in time when the act of medical negligence occurred, and presume that the negligence did not occur to see if a better result is likely to occur. In other words, if appropriate medical care had been given at that point in time, would the outcome likely have been different.?

The term “damages” is just legalese for those losses and harms caused by the act of medical negligence, including pain, suffering, emotional distress, loss of usual activities, disability, loss of enjoyment of life, lost earnings and benefits, lost earning capacity, medical expenses, future costs of care and related life care expenses.

The onset of unexpected weight loss can herald a cancer diagnosis. Fortunately, only 3% or less of cases involving unexpected weight loss result in a diagnosis of cancer. The New England Journal of Medicine, referencing an article in the British Medical Journal, describes those situations in which a physician should undertake an intensive evaluation for cancer when a patient presents with unexpected weight loss. The most common cancers associated with unexpected weight loss are, in order, lung cancer, colorectal cancer, stomach cancer or esophageal cancer, and pancreatic cancer.

The following findings should trigger an intensive evaluation in men and women: abdominal mass or pain, chest pain or shortness of breath, iron deficiency anemia, jaundice, loss of appetite, lymphadenopathy, low albumin levels, or elevated white cell counts, calcium, platelets and inflammatory markers. In men only, the following findings should trigger an intensive evaluation: difficulty swallowing, bloody spit and noncardiac chest pain. In women, the following should trigger an intensive evaluation: back pain, changes in bowel habit, dyspepsia and venous thromboembolism (blood clots in the legs or pulmonary embolism). 

A doctor’s failure to undertake an intensive investigation when a patient meets the criteria for concerning unexpected weight loss can constitute medical negligence.  However, depending on the type of cancer, unexpected weight loss might be evidence of a late stage of cancer.  In order to evaluate the potential merits of a medical negligence claim, an experienced medical malpractice lawyer will have to review all relevant medical records, taking into account the length of the delay in diagnosis, the type of cancer, the stage at diagnosis and other surrounding factors. If you or a loved one has experienced a delayed diagnosis of cancer or wrongful death related to a delay in diagnosis, you should contact an experienced medical malpractice lawyer in Cleveland, OH, such as from Mishkind Kulwicki Law Co, LPA, as soon as possible in order to explore your legal rights since time limits may apply..