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Failure to Diagnose Uterine Cancer

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.

The trial court had initially granted the Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on the husband’s suit, dismissing the case. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision. However, the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the suit back to the Court of Special Appeals with instructions to reverse the decision of the Circuit Court of Anne Arundel County. A copy the judicial opinion regarding the case can be found here.

Failure to diagnose cancer cases in Maryland can be complicated medical malpractice cases. A Plaintiff generally must prove that he or she would have had a probability of survival if treated properly, but as a result of the delay in diagnosis the person has a probability of death (in other words, the 5 year survival rate is below 50%).

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