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.
I have successfully handled a number of medical malpractice / medical negligence / medical error cases in Baltimore and other counties in Maryland involving a failure to timely diagnose and treat cancer. In fact, I was involved in a very similar case where a man repeatedly complained of stomach pains over several years and his family doctor, without doing a colonoscopy, simply diagnosed him with irritable bowel. That is a diagnosis of last resort, which can only be made after other things have been excluded. A couple of years after the diagnosis, the man began to lose weight, have greater stomach problems and went to another doctor. He soon underwent the necessary colonoscopy and was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer. After the man died, that case resulted in a multi-million dollar jury verdict.
While it is unusual to develop colon cancer at such a young age, it certainly does happen and health care providers need to be on the lookout for the unusual.