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  • Writer's pictureLivingston Law Group Team

Back Pain or Cancer? The Legal Implications of Misdiagnosis of Cancer in Teens and Young Adults


The misdiagnosis of cancer is a devastating occurrence, particularly for young people with their entire lives ahead of them. Teens who should be heading off to prom are instead stuck in hospital beds. Beyond the physical toll of the disease itself, misdiagnosis can lead to delayed treatment, progression of the illness, and unnecessary suffering.


17 year old Shimia Nord knows this all too well. As a dancer, she is no stranger to pain. But in 2022, she experienced back pain so severe that she failed her driver's test. Urgent care dismissed the teen's pain as muscle strain. When the pain persisted and caused vomiting, Shimia's mother brought her to the emergency room where she was diagnosed with a rare type of kidney cancer, renal cell carcinoma that required urgent surgery.


In cases like Shimia's, medical malpractice comes into question, raising complex legal issues regarding the duty of care owed by healthcare professionals and the potential liability for their actions or inactions.


Understanding Misdiagnosis of Cancer

Misdiagnosis of cancer in young people can occur due to various factors, including inadequate screening, misinterpretation of test results, failure to recognize symptoms, and communication errors between healthcare providers. All of these happened in Shimia's case and in the cases we pursue at Livingston Law Group.


Cancer symptoms in young individuals may also mimic other less severe conditions, leading to diagnostic challenges. Shimia's pain looked like a minor back strain, common to athletes like herself, resulting in a misdiagnosis by an inexperienced or rushed medical professional. As a result, Shimia's cancer spread without treatment for months unnecessarily.


Legal Framework

Medical malpractice cases involving the misdiagnosis of cancer typically hinge on whether the healthcare provider breached the standard of care expected in their profession.


The standard of care refers to the level of skill, knowledge, and diligence that a reasonably competent healthcare professional would exercise under similar circumstances.


Elements of Medical Malpractice

To establish a medical malpractice claim, several elements must be proven:

  1. Duty: The healthcare provider owed a duty of care to the patient.

  2. Breach: The healthcare provider breached the standard of care by failing to diagnose the cancer accurately.

  3. Causation: The misdiagnosis directly caused harm or injury to the patient.

  4. Damages: The patient suffered damages as a result of the misdiagnosis, such as physical pain, emotional distress, or financial loss.


Challenges in Medical Malpractice Cases

Proving medical malpractice in cases of cancer misdiagnosis can be challenging due to the complex nature of the disease and the inherent uncertainties involved in medical diagnosis and treatment.


It often requires expert testimony from seasoned medical professionals and analysts specializing in oncology to establish whether the misdiagnosis constituted a departure from the standard of care.


Statute of Limitations

It's important to note that medical malpractice claims are subject to statutes of limitations, which vary by jurisdiction. In many cases, there is a limited window of time within which a patient can file a lawsuit after the alleged malpractice occurred or was discovered. Failing to file within this timeframe may result in the loss of the right to seek legal recourse.


Misdiagnosis of cancer in young people can have profound consequences, both medically and legally. Medical malpractice cases arising from such misdiagnoses require careful evaluation of the facts, medical records, and expert opinions to determine whether there has been a breach of the standard of care.


Individuals and families seeking justice for the harm they have suffered deserve a legal team that will work hard for them, navigating the complexities of medical malpractice alongside them with ease that comes from experience. Livingston Law Group is here to work with you and your family and fight for justice to served.

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