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Failure to Diagnose Cancer – Medical Malpractice

An Indiana jury has decided that a medical clinic must pay $2.75 million to a former patient for failing to test a tumor removed from the woman’s foot. A doctor later found that a second tumor removed from the foot was malignant. Jurors awarded an additional $500,000 to the woman’s husband.

This case involves a complete failure to test the first tumor, and the failure to alert the patient to the fact that the tumor wasn’t tested. That is a clear mistake, and is certainly medical negligence according to the standard of care. I have handled a number of cases before where tests were not properly done or interpreted.

In one such medical malpractice case in Maryland, a young girl’s leg was hurting, so her mother took her to a Baltimore hospital to be examined. The doctor didn’t want to do an x-ray, but the mother insisted. After the x-ray, the mother was told that she would be called if the x-ray was abnormal. No one ever called. Over the 8 months, the child’s leg pain got worse. When the mother decided to take her daughter to another hospital for a second opinion. That hospital asked the mother to get a copy of the x-rays from the first hospital. When the mother called the first hospital, they couldn’t find the x-rays. The mother then went to the first hospital in person, to try and get the x-rays. When she got there, she was told that the x-rays were just being read. She didn’t understand, as it has been many months since she and her daughter had been there. On her way to the second hospital, the mother got a call from the first hospital telling her that the x-ray showed evidence of bone cancer. It turned out that the films were never read until the day the mother went to pick up the films. That eight month delay in the bone cancer diagnosis allowed the cancer to spread / metastasize. As a result, the girl died before her 20th birthday. What a tragic case. Obviously, that medical malpractice case settled for a substantial amount.

In another case I handled, a young woman in Maryland had the recommended annual pap smears, which all were read as normal. But then, one year after having a normal pap smear, she had another one read as showing advanced cervical cancer. She came to see me and I ordered all of the slides from her previous pap smears. It turned out that 3 years worth of pap smears which were read as normal all showed signs of cervical cancer that were missed. Amazing. After filing suit, the case settled shortly before trial.