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Michigan court says medical malpractice lawsuit may proceed

A woman can proceed with a lawsuit against a county health department for failure to diagnose her breast cancer, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled.

The woman sought medical treatment in 2013 at the Ingham County Health Department's Women's Health Center after she felt a lump in her left breast.

According to court records, the nurse practitioner who saw the woman ordered a mammogram. The results showed non-cancerous calcifications in both breasts, but no cancerous tumors, the nurse practitioner told the patient.

When the lump continued to get bigger, the woman returned to the nurse practitioner, who didn't do any further testing, court records show.

Later, the woman moved to Arkansas, where she sought treatment. A doctor there ordered a mammogram in June 2015. She was diagnosed with breast cancer. It had traveled to her blood vessels and lymph channels, which she was told increased the odds of a recurrence. She underwent a double mastectomy.

Six months later, she sued the nurse practitioner and her supervising physician, as well as the county health department for failure to diagnose her cancer. The department argued that the lawsuit was filed too late under Michigan malpractice law. The deadline is six months after alleged malpractice is discovered, and she missed that by four days.

The Ingham County Circuit Court judge ruled in favor of the health department and the medical providers, while the Court of Appeals disagreed and said the lawsuit could go on and referred it back to the lower court.

When we go to a medical facility with health concerns, we have the expectation that our providers will listen to us, order the appropriate tests and accurately review them. When they fail to do that, patients and family should determine their legal options as soon as possible.

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