If you have ever had to take a drug test issued by your employer or gotten blood work taken for your doctor, you might be familiar with Quest Diagnostics. Quest Diagnostics is the world's leading provider of diagnostic information services and has over 2,000 locations around the country. They provide a wide array of services, including diagnostic screening for medical conditions, drug screens, and clinical trials. For many people, Quest Diagnostics is a vital resource for diagnosing conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurological disorders, STDs, and birth defects.
Patients rely on Quest Diagnostics for accurate and timely results about what condition they've developed. These results allow the patient and their doctor to take the next step in starting their treatment. If the diagnosis from Quest is delayed or incorrect it can have disastrous consequences for the patient. Many health conditions have a limited time frame for effective treatment, so any significant delay in diagnosis can prevent a patient from effectively treating their illness. When life threatening conditions like cancer are involved, diagnostic failures can literally be fatal.Diagnostic Errors
Medical diagnostic errors at places like Quest Diagnostics are much more common than you probably think. Studies have shown that diagnostic error accounts for the largest fraction of malpractice claims, the most severe patient harm, and the highest liability payouts. Quest Diagnostics is regularly sued for lab errors and other diagnosis failures that, in worst-case scenarios, ended in the patient dying from either their original illness or a reaction from using the wrong medication.
The process of lab work is broken down into three different phases: the pre-analytical phase, the analytical phase, and post-analytical phase. The pre-analytical phase is when most diagnostic errors occur. This phase involves labeling and organizing the patient's samples before they go in for testing. A number of problems could happen during the pre-analytical phase that can contaminate the samples being used. When any of these mistakes occur, the risk of a diagnostic error is dramatically increased. Some common mistakes include:
- Losing or mixing up samples
- Mislabeling samples or missing necessary information on samples
- Storing and shipping samples incorrectly
- Rough handling of samples
- Unintentionally exposing samples to the environment
There are some conditions that are more likely to have a diagnostic error or be misdiagnosed. This is due to the condition having similar symptoms to other illnesses, making it easier for a lab technician to confuse samples or give a misdiagnosis. Unfortunately, even for well-designed tests, there is no guarantee that the test is completely fail-safe. Human error occurs even with the safest tests by being administered or interpreted incorrectly. Some conditions that have a higher rate of diagnostic error include:
- Breast cancer
- Celiac disease
- Colon cancer
- Coronary artery disease
- Genital herpes
- Lung cancer
- Lyme disease
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Pulmonary embolism
Question Diagnostics is considered a healthcare provider under Maryland law, which means it can be sued for medical malpractice the same as a doctor. Quest provides lab work, screening and other diagnostic services, so when they get sued for medical malpractice it is almost always based on some type of failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis theory.
Quest Diagnostics focuses primarily on blood work and pathology (examination of tissue samples for cancer) as opposed to radiology, MRIs or other imaging diagnostic tools. This type of lab work has a much lower margin for interpretive error compared to reading and interpreting radiology imaging. This lower rate of risk means that Quest does not get sued for misdiagnosis as frequently as providers that specialize in radiology. In addition, when Quest is sued it is usually the result of an incorrect pathology test which failed to identify cancer.Quest Diagnostics Verdicts and Settlements
Below are verdicts and reported settlements from actual malpractice cases filed against Quest Diagnostics from around the country.
- 2008 Pennsylvania $3,500,000: A wrongful death action was filed after a patient died nine months after they underwent a colonoscopy with a biopsy that had results showing metastasis of cervix/vaginal cancer years after Quest Diagnostics obtained and analyzed multiple pap smears. The plaintiff contended that the defendants failed to properly screen the patient's pap specimens for abnormalities, failed to create a system that would decrease error, failed to maintain reliable quality control, failed to recognize the significance of abnormal pap results over the years, failed to order the proper colonoscopy, failed to provide follow-up procedures for abnormal paps, and failed to provide the proper standard of care. The company denied liability and claimed that the cancer actually originated from rectal cancer and no physical tumor was found in the vagina or cervix, alleging that the care of the plaintiff was within medical standards. The jury ruled in favor of the plaintiff and rewarded them with $3,500,000.
- 2005 New York $11,800,000: This wrongful death action was brought after the patient died of cervical cancer while under the care of the defendant doctor and their tests were read by the medical laboratory. The plaintiff contended that the defendants were negligent, failed to timely and properly diagnose the patient's cancerous tumor and failed to properly read the results of two pap smears. The plaintiff further contended that a hysterectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments were not prescribed in time to save the decedent. The defendants denied liability. The decedent was survived by their spouse, who became the plaintiff in this case. The plaintiff prevailed and was rewarded $11,800,000.
- 2005 Pennsylvania $125,000: The plaintiff received a pap smear that was sent to Quest Diagnostic laboratories to be screened for cancer. The Pap smear was interpreted as showing only benign cellular changes, when, in fact, it showed atypical glandular cells of undetermined significance. Based on the laboratory's interpretation, the plaintiff's health care providers performed no further diagnostic tests. Years later, the plaintiff underwent a different screening procedure, the results of which suggested cervical cancer. The cancer was confirmed a few weeks later, and Quest Diagnostic was sued on the basis that they were negligent in failing to correctly interpret the original pap smear. The company denied liability, but the jury ruled in the plaintiff's favor and rewarded them with $125,000.
- 2005 Texas $52,000: The plaintiff had blood drawn by Quest Diagnostics to be tested for HIV. When results came back, the plaintiff was told they had tested positive. Later that day, the plaintiff was called and told the test could not actually be confirmed and additional tests were needed. After several other tests, it was determined the plaintiff did not have HIV. Months later the plaintiff gave birth to their child and due to the concern of being infected both of them were administered AZT, a drug used to prevention and treatment of HIV. The plaintiff sued Quest Diagnostics for the mental anguish they suffered from being misdiagnosed and claimed the doctors were negligent by mislabeling and mishandling the blood samples. The company accepted responsibility and agreed to settle for $52,000.
- 2001 Florida $4,216,705: The plaintiff alleged that they suffered cervical cancer while in the care of one of the defendant's physicians, where they underwent pap smears. The test results were sent to the defendant laboratory where the pathologist read and interpreted them and told the plaintiff they were cancer-free. The plaintiff contended that the company failed to properly and timely diagnose their terminal cancer condition, failed to properly interpret their test results, and failed to provide the proper standard of care. The company denied liability for the delayed diagnosis, but the jury was not convinced and the plaintiff was rewarded with $4,216,705.
- 2000 New Jersey $2,380,000: The plaintiff sued Quest Diagnostics on their spouse's behalf for wrongful death based on negligence of incorrectly interpreting pap smears. The defendant's doctors analyzed the patient's pap smear and indicated that results showed cervical cancer that was in its very initial stages. Months later, further testing proved that the cancer was actually much more advanced and the patient required a hysterectomy. The cancer eventually spread to other parts of the patient's body, which resulted in the patient's death. The plaintiff alleged that the company's negligence caused delayed treatment of cancer. The company denied liability and claimed that the pap smears were not incorrectly read and that the cancer had metastasized at a rapid rate, but the jury was not convinced. The plaintiff received $2,380,000.
If you think you may have a claim against Quest Diagnostics for misdiagnosis, contact the malpractice lawyers at Miller Zois at 800-553-8082.