Articles Posted in Cancer Malpractice

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A Charleston, SC jury this week ordered a physician and his employer, a radiology company, to pay $6.9 million dollars to a woman and her husband for the loss of chance of survival after a significant delay in diagnosing breast cancer. The now-47 year old woman, employed as a nurse, was 39 when she went for a mammogram. The screening showed new calcifications that weren’t present on a mammogram performed five years prior.

Nevertheless, her doctor interpreted the study as benign and ordered no additional studies, diagnostic testing or follow-up appointments. Two years later, the woman was diagnosed with Stage III Invasive Duct Carcinoma. By 2013, the cancer had metastasized (spread) to her bones, including her sternum, spine and hip. The diagnosis was that the disease had become terminal, meaning that there was no hope for a cure.

The attorneys presented testimony of expert witnesses who stated that had additional testing been conducted, her cancer would have been diagnosed sooner and her chances of survival would have been between 85 and 100 percent. Notably, the American Cancer Society recommends that women begin yearly mammograms at age 45. The woman’s attorneys used this fact to show how proactive she was when it came to her health. The verdict included $6.2 million to the woman and $700,000 to her husband for loss of consortium.

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A New Jersey jury this month awarded $6 million to the family of a man who died from colon cancer that should have been recognized and treated far sooner. A copy of the article regarding the case can be found here. In the medical malpractice lawsuit, the family alleged that the 62 year-old patient – whose family medical history included colon cancer – became concerned when he noticed blood in his stool. In 2007, he presented to a colorectal surgeon who, after performing a colonoscopy, told the patient that the blood in his stool was merely the result of hemorrhoids, indicating to the patient that there was nothing to worry about. Interestingly, the doctor had videotaped the colonoscopy so that he could use it for educational purposes in the future.

Approximately two years later, this patient found himself in severe pain and, consequently, presented to the emergency room. There, doctors discovered a large mass on his liver. Days later – and while still admitted to the hospital – another physician performed a second colonoscopy. At that time, it was determined that the patient had been suffering from colon cancer which had metastasized (spread) to his liver.

A review of the video from the first colonoscopy performed in 2007 revealed a polyp in the patient’s colon. A colon polyp is a growth on the lining of the colon. Over time, polyps can become cancerous which is why removing them when discovered is advisable to prevent cancer. Indeed, the Plaintiff’s attorneys argued that the standard of acceptable medical care requires that every polyp that is seen be removed. At trial, the Defendant doctor disputed that the growth seen on the video was a polyp. The patient underwent chemotherapy and multiple surgeries in an effort to slow the cancer’s growth but, ultimately, the patient died in December of 2011. According to the Plaintiff’s experts, if the polyp had been identified and removed during the 2007 colonoscopy, the patient more likely than not would have survived. Unfortunately, however, the two-year delay in diagnosis resulted in his death.

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Some of the most common medical malpractice lawsuits involve a provider’s failure to diagnose a patient properly. When patients seek medical help, they trust that their healthcare providers will perform the necessary steps to determine what is causing their symptoms and ultimately provide the proper treatment. Needless to say, patients expect to receive the highest level of care. In this same vein, doctors are expected, and even trained, to make the proper decisions when the time comes to make a diagnosis or recommend the appropriate treatment.

Unfortunately, misdiagnoses happen all too often. A misdiagnosis can lead a patient down the wrong treatment plan or without any treatment plan at all. Failing to properly diagnose a patient prevents doctors and medical staff from providing the proper treatment, which often can lead to further injury or sometimes even death.

In 2009, a healthy and active middle-aged woman in Texas underwent a mastectomy to remove a benign breast tumor. Just one month later, she was given the horrific news that every woman fears: she had stage IV breast cancer. Once she was able to accept this devastating news, she began to give away her belongings, start treatment, and arrange for own home care. The treatment endured for seven long months. As a result of the stress and difficulties associated with the diagnosis and treatment, the patient developed anxiety. In 2011, the patient visited a medical center for treatment of her anxiety. Doctors performed several tests and scans that routinely are administered to cancer patients experiencing anxiety. At that time, they suspected that something was wrong. Subsequent testing at another medical center later confirmed those suspicions: the patient’s previous cancer diagnosis was wrong. The tests revealed that the patient had been cancer-free since her mastectomy earlier in 2009. Fortunately for the patient, the original doctor who made the diagnosis read her PET/CT scan incorrectly.

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The Post-Gazette reported recently on serious allegations of malpractice against a pathologist for misreading Pap smear slides and missing the presence of cancer in a patient. According to the story, a young woman was shocked when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer shortly after giving birth to her son. She had diligently received annual testing in the past which, she assumed, would have identified the cancer earlier. A lawsuit eventually filed in the case claims that for five years the pathologist in charge of decisions about the test reading told the women that everything was fine. The doctor did not identify the presence of any abnormal cells or order more testing to clarify ambiguity.

The woman in the case had several other pathologists review the slides. They found that the tests showed a clear progression of cells from “pre-cancerous” to invasive carcinoma. In fact, the very doctor named in the lawsuit admitted upon further review of the slides afterward that those test should have raised red flags. There is also some confusion about whether the defendant-doctor did in fact indicate suspicious signs which were ignored by obstetricians and gynecologists.

Of course all of this raises the question of whether other woman may have similarly had slides read incorrectly. That fear has led the hospital, along with various private groups, to investigate the entire work performed by the doctor and his lab in the facility. Five hundred sample slides were pulled and are being examined by other pathologists to see if other misreadings can be identified. If so, then all those who relied on negative test results from the lab might need to be reevaluated to ensure they do not have undiagnosed cancer.

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In August 2000, a Maryland patient visited her gynecologist and informed her that she was experiencing abnormal bleeding. The gynecologist, Dr. Moen, ordered an ultrasound to help her determine the cause of the bleeding, but did not perform an endometrial biopsy. The ultrasound was performed and subsequently interpreted by a radiologist, Dr. DeCandido. When interpreting the ultrasound, Dr. DeCandido did not notice and report a mass located on the patient’s right ovary that measured 1.5 centimeters.

Following these procedures, the patient continued to experience physical problems, specifically pelvic symptoms and irregular bleeding, and complained to Dr. Moen of the same. Approximately a year and half later, Dr. Moen performed an endometrial biopsy of the patient’s uterus and discovered that the patient had endometrial cancer. After being diagnosed with cancer, the patient began treatment with a gynecological oncologist at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. Despite an operation and other treatment, the patient ultimately died approximately five and a half years after she first complained of her symptoms to Dr. Moen.

Prior to her death, the patient’s husband had filed a medical malpractice case against the doctors alleging that they were negligent in failing to diagnose and treat the patient’s endometrial and ovarian cancer in August of 2000. Specifically, the medical negligence case alleged that both Dr. Moen and Dr. DeCandido breached the standard of care by failing to conduct an endometrial biopsy along with an ultrasound and failing to report the 1.5 centimeter visible on the ultrasound, respectively. After the patient’s death, her husband added wrongful death and survivorship claims against the doctors.

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Medical errors leading to malpractice litigation generally stems from two root causes: a health-care provider choosing the wrong method of care or a health-care provider choosing the right method of care but carrying it out incorrectly. The former is particularly relevant when a health-care provider makes a misdiagnosis.

Most hospitals have faced litigation related to misdiagnosis at one time or another. For example, Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore was involved in suit regarding the misdiagnosis of cancer. The decedent in this case was diagnosed with prostate cancer and underwent radiation treatment as result. It was later determined that he did not, in fact, have prostate cancer. Prior to the institution of a medical malpractice lawsuit, he died of unrelated causes, and a representative of his estate (his wife) brought a medical malpractice action against both the physician and Mercy Medical Center to recover damages for the emotional distress associated with his misdiagnosis. The Circuit Court for Baltimore City initially granted the physician and hospital’s motion for summary judgment, dismissing the case. However, on appeal, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals reversed and remanded the decision back to the trial court. A copy the judicial opinion regarding the case can be found here.

Of particular note is that the Court of Special Appeals decided that the emotional distress associated with being misdiagnosed with cancer was compensable within the “physical injury rule.” This particular rule stems from negligence law and states that if physical injury is capable of “objective determination,” it is compensable. Objective determination means that the evidence must provide enough detail that a jury has a basis for quantifying the injury so that damages may be awarded. Also, usually evidence has to come from more than just solely the victim in order for the claim to be successful. Finally, it’s important to note that there is no “threshold level” of severity that must be reached for emotional injury to be compensable.

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An Indiana jury has awarded a $2.5 million verdict to a former police officer who claimed that his doctor committed medical malpractice by failing to diagnose his colon cancer in 2004. The verdict will be reduced to Indiana’s cap of $1.25 million on medical malpractice cases. The man claimed that he complained of rectal bleeding and other gastric complaints to the doctor, who failed to order either a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy to rule out colon cancer, although an upper G.I. test was ordered due to some other complaints. The man later moved to another state and went to another doctor several years later with the same complaint of rectal bleeding. That doctor ordered testing in 2006 that found the cancer was at Stage 4 and incurable. The man now is 42 years old and has been given a prognosis of less than a year to live. A copy of an article regarding the case can be found here.

As an experienced Baltimore, Maryland medical malpractice lawyer, I have handled many medical malpractice and wrongful death cases involving failure to timely diagnose and treat cancer. I have handled failure to diagnose cancer cases alleging medical malpractice involving brain cancer, spinal cord cancer, nasopharyngeal cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, stomach cancer, bone cancer, etc. A number of these cases involve relatively young people whom the doctors do not suspect of having cancer because the patient does not fall into the typical age group of cancer patients. That can be a catastrophic mistake. Another terrible mistake that doctors make in these type of cases is failing to refer a patient to a specialist when the patient has signs and symptoms that are consistent with cancer. There is no excuse for a doctor who fails to refer a patient to a medical specialist when such a referral is appropriate and available.

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A deceased woman’s family has been awarded $2.5 million in a medical malpracice case against the woman’s doctor for misdiagnosis of cancer. According to the family, the woman’s doctor’s negligent actions resulted in delayed treatment and severely reduced her chances of survival.

In 2004, the woman, who then was 24 years old, went to her doctor after experiencing blood in her stool. Her doctor diagnosed the problem as hemorrhoids on several occasions, but the real problem was colon and rectal cancer. Because her doctor failed to timely an properly diagnose her cancer, the woman’s condition went untreated for seven more months. She eventually died in 2007 at age 27.

The family argued that she would have had a extremely high probability of survival – 97% – if the doctor had timely diagnosed her cancer, but that due to the delay in diagnosis her survival rate fell below 50%. A copy of an article regarding the case can be found here.

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A Las Vegas jury has awarded a woman $1.5 million in a failure to diagnose cancer medical malpractice case. The woman, a 24-year-old mother, had found blood in her stool and kept having pain when she went to the bathroom. She went to local doctor who repeatedly told her that she was just suffering from hemorrhoids. Seven months after she visited the doctor, she was rushed to the emergency room because of major pain. Shortly after that, she was diagnosed with colon and rectal cancer. She died in 2007 at the age of 27.

A jury found that the doctor violated the standard of care and awarded the woman’s family $2.5 million. It is thought to be the largest medical malpractice verdict there since 2004.

The woman’s family argued that if she’d been properly diagnosed when she first visited the doctor, her chances of surviving the cancer would have been 97 percent, but because of the malpractice, her chances dropped to 50 percent by the time she was diagnosed. The family also claimed that the woman likely would be alive today if doctors had diagnosed her cancer earlier. Instead, before she died, the woman went through chemotherapy and major surgery, including the removal of her uterus and part of her lower intestines. A copy of an article regarding the case can be found here.

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An Indiana jury has returned a $8.1 million medical malpractice verdict in favor of a 33 year old mother of two, whose cancer was not timely diagnosed and treated. Apparently, the woman had a growth removed from her bit toe in 2004 by a local podiatrist, who did not test the growth at the time. When the growth resurfaced two years later, it was tested and the test revealed malignant melanoma. The woman claimed in her malpractice lawsuit that the doctor should have tested the tissue from the excised growth. Now in stage three of the cancer, she has just a 17 percent chance of living another 12 years, according to statistics

Interestingly, the doctor’s medical practice apparently failed to participate in the state program that caps malpractice damages at $1.25 million for all care providers involved in a case. Nevertheless, the doctor will be shielded by Indiana’s $250,000 damages cap on all damages against individual doctors under the law. The woman’s lawyers will have to pursue attempting to recover the verdict from the doctor’s medical practice. A copy of the article regarding the case can be found here.

This case involves several important issues. First, is the failure to test the removed tissue. Whenever abnormal tissue is removed from the body, through a biopsy or by excision, it must be tested to determine whether it is cancerous.