The only thing worse than having an incurable, degenerative brain disease may be not knowing that you have it. According to a new study conducted by the Alzheimer’s Association, only 45% of Medicare patients who have Alzheimer’s were informed by their doctors of their diagnosis. In comparison, doctors told 90% of Medicare patients with cancer of their disease.
The Alzheimer’s Association confirmed the study’s findings by surveying the family members of patients with Alzheimer’s. Only 53% of family members had been told of the diagnosis from the patient’s doctors.
When doctors were surveyed about why they failed to provide patients with their diagnosis, many blamed the short time constraints of Medicare appointments. With so many Medicare patients to see each day, many felt they just did not have the time to have a lengthy conversation with the patient about his or her condition. In addition, many were simply uncomfortable providing a fatal diagnosis, and chose not to.
Regardless of the reasons, a patient who is not told about his or her Alzheimer’s disease loses precious time that could be spent planning for the future. By the time another doctor informs the patient of the diagnosis, or by the time the condition becomes obvious, the patient has often lost the ability to make important decisions about his or her finances or living arrangements. They may also miss out on the opportunity to participate in clinical trial which might offer some benefits for the condition.
In addition, patients who are not told that they have Alzheimer’s may continue to perform activities, like driving, which may be dangerous. Because Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease which gets worse at night, a person’s family may not know about the condition until the patient is lost or injured.
The fact that doctors are not informing patients of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is disturbing. Alzheimer’s is currently the sixth leading cause of death in America, and half a million people will develop the disease in 2015. As the population age, the Alzheimer’s Association estimates that by mid-century, someone will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s every 33 seconds.
While Alzheimer’s is not currently curable, families are able to make arrangements for a loved one’s care as the disease progresses, so long as they know about the diagnosis. Because there is nothing that can be done to stop the progression of Alzheimer’s, a doctor usually isn’t negligent for failing to inform a patient about the condition. However, if this failure to give a diagnosis causes some type of injury, there may be some liability.
At the Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq., we work to help the victims of medical malpractice get justice after an injury caused by negligence. If you believe that your doctor caused or worsened an injury, you may be able to seek compensation for your treatment.
For a free consultation with a Los Angeles medical malpractice lawyer, call (310) 289-2600 or use our online contact form to have your case reviewed.