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Lilo777's avatar

Can I sue for malpractice for something that happened 10 years ago?

Asked by Lilo777 (109 points ) September 26th, 2012

I don’t even know if this is grounds for a lawsuit in the first place, but—I was treated for leukemia 10 years ago, and had induction chemotherapy before my bone marrow transplant. During my very first round of IV chemo, one of the drugs leaked into surrounding tissue (I guess it wasn’t in right), causing severe pain, lots of damage and basically left me with a 3rd degree chemical burn from just above my wrist to my elbow. I don’t really remember what all they did about it (wasn’t much, that’s for sure). I am embarrassed to wear anything that shows my arms. Can I sue my oncologist or oncology nurse for this? It’s caused a lot of self-esteem problems, that’s for sure, not too mention it was a lot of pain for me, as a 10 year old, to go through (pretty sure that is NOT what is supposed to happen when you get chemotherapy!) I am 20 years old and I live in Canada, if that helps.

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25 Answers

CWOTUS's avatar

Welcome to Fluther.

I wouldn’t say “you can’t do that”, but I also wouldn’t say “you can certainly do that.”

I expect that you can find a lawyer who would take the case on a contingency basis (if he or she is hungry enough and has the time available), and who would bring the suit. But it’s not clear that you would have much chance of winning after all this time.

Most such cases have a statute of limitations as to how long you have to bring the suit after the event… or after your knowledge of the event. That’s the key that might make you successful. As a ten-year-old, you would not be presumed to have “knowledge of the event” since at that age you were not considered competent to have such knowledge.

Talk to an attorney.

Taciturnu's avatar

To get the most accurate answer, you should probably consult with a lawyer who practices in your local area.

Things to consider are what waivers were signed for your treatment and the statute of limitations in your country/province.

chyna's avatar

Welcome to Fluther.
The first thing I would do is talk to my parents and get as much information from them that you can. Everything they remember about the events and any medical records they may have kept. Get their recollections in writing. You never know when something could happen to your parents or after time, how much of the event that they will remember.
Then go to a lawyer and see what your rights are.
Good luck.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Yeah, this is unusually sloppy work. Screw any waiver you might have signed, this is shit work due to understaffing, lack of proper training, or lack of zeal for the job on the part of the nurse. Oncological IV Medication Protocols demand the infusion nurse frequently monitor for infiltration, which is what you are describing. The best way to know if you have a case is to contact a lawyer with trial experience in medical malpractice who will take it on contingency. After looking into it, if he/she won’t take the case on contingency, you probably don’t have a case. Then you get a second opinion from another firm. Always get a second opinion.

Welcome to Fluther.

Kayak8's avatar

Welcome to Fluther! Whether you can do this or not depends on your state laws. In some states, the statute of limitations is very restrictive (within a year of when a reasonable person could have detected that something was clearly amiss) and others are more lenient. It completely depends on the malpractice laws in your state.

marinelife's avatar

You would need to consult a malpractice attorney for the answer.

wundayatta's avatar

@Kayak8 In the OP’s case, it depends on Canadian law. Perhaps provincial law.

OP—all you can do is talk to a malpractice lawyer and tell them your story. These days, you may be able to find a listing online, and write to several of them to see what they have to say.

Kayak8's avatar

@wundayatta Missed the Canadian piece, you are correct.

thenemo1's avatar

Because you were a child your local laws may allow your case and exempt the normal statute of limitations it would probable require a summary judgement by a court allowing this.
In many cases the people and the (records aren’t conveniently available anymore.
Your attorney may or may not be able to prove your case but a medical person should be able to advise your attorney if it’s plausible to pursue..

gorillapaws's avatar

I seem to be missing the part where you thank them for saving your life? I’m sorry, but because they didn’t flawlessly save your life you want to sue them? And if you do sue and win, and if your cancer comes back who will you ask to treat you a second time? What if everyone behaved as you did? Would there be enough oncologists around? Would treatment be so much more expensive to cover the prohibitive cost of malpractice insurance that nobody wants to enter the field and nobody can afford treatment?

You have genuine sympathy regarding the pain you experienced, and I’m not trying to belittle that, but as far as the cosmetic issues, I would wear it as a badge of honor—you’re a cancer survivor and you should be proud. Anyone who thinks less of you for that is a truly pathetic human being. Be proud of who you are and what you have overcome.

JLeslie's avatar

Sometimes statutes of limitations can be overcome if the event happened when you were a minor. You should call a lawyer. Malpractice lawyers in the states often will work for free and then be paid by getting a percentage of what you were awarded, maybe it is similar in Canada? Give one a call, they usually will give a quick answer if there is a possibility for suit.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@gorillapaws What they did was negligent no matter what the object of the therapy was. It is important to determine the cause and compensate for the damage done. The rule is do no harm. Harm was done. Unnecessarily. In my experience (22 years as a nurse) I have found that institutions will not take these things seriously until they are smacked and smacked hard. The focus has been taken away from the patient and placed upon profit in the past ten years in both Canada and the US with their successive conservative regimes. Ask any health care worker and you will hear the same. On the other hand, all but punitive damages would be unnecessary if both Canada and the US had true Single Payer National Health Care. And punative damages are almost impossible to get because you damn near have to prove malice.

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Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@JLeslie: Uh oh. You’re not going to bite me are you? Cuz I like you. I think I’m one of the good guys, an old fashioned patient advocate. But seriously, I’m sorry for this history you’ve had with the medical profession. I’ve seen a lot of incompetence, I know how these things can happen. I’m sorry it happened to you and your loved ones and I certainly understand your anxiety.

In this case, it’s more than a cosmetically damaged 20 year old female, which—call me a chauvinist if one will—I consider very serious particularly due the age and sex of the patient. But, if the PO is using the term correctly, 3rd degree burns involve muscle tissue and therefore function. This is serious and should have been addressed ten years ago.

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Lilo777's avatar

Thanks for the responses so far. It was not my intent to sound at all ungrateful – for the most part, I had terrific oncologists and I 100% believe that I could not be here if it weren’t for where I was treated/what I was treated with, etc. The majority of my treatment was done at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, and they are wonderful there, I had a great oncology team. But for whatever reason, for a portion of my chemo treatment I was sent to another hospital’s outpatient chemo unit, which is where the incident happened. I would have my chemo and then go home – I really feel as if they’ve done nothing for me. As for the burn itself – as I said earlier, I don’t remember much, all I know is that Sick Kid’s treated it, and there really was not much follow up. I have a lot of scarring, discoloration and I have no feeling and sensation in the area.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Yeah, you need to address this as I described above in my first post and get some follow up care as well. The nerves are probably gone for good, but some skin grafting may be in order here. Cosmetics are important at your age.

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nofurbelowsbatgirl's avatar

My husband (passed away now) had a medical malpractice suit that he sued for and won, in Canada. Here’s the thing I do not think you can sue now, 10 yrs later. First of all the lawsuit itself has a lot of time involved (over 5 yrs for my husband) and in the end it will not go to trial unless you are unsatisfied with the amount of money they offer. If it is a real case of malpractice the hospitals insurance is what pays the bill. For a real medical malpractice it is not about how you were treated but if injuries were caused from the malpractice itself. in my husbands case he lost his eye sight, resulting in a major lifestyle change.

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augustlan's avatar

[mod says] Please remember: This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic. Thanks!

elbanditoroso's avatar

Doubtful. I don’t know Canadian law, but in the US, there is the concept of “laches”. What this means, basically, is that you can’t “sleep” on a claim or a complaint. If you don’t make your case in a timely manner, then you can’t make your complaint.

Again, this may or may not be correct in Canada. But I wouldn’t be optimistic.

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