A Cook County jury returned a $5.42 million medical malpractice verdict in favor of the family of a woman who had been battling cancer. The Illinois wrongful death lawsuit claimed that the plaintiff’s oncologist negligently prescribed the patient a chemotherapy drug despite its known side effects. The decedent died as a result of the fatal lung damage she developed after taking the chemotherapy drug, at which point her family filed the lawsuit. The decedent was survived by her husband of 35 years and two adult children.
The decedent had been diagnosed with Stage III Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but had been responding well to a chemotherapy program which involved a four different medications. One of those four drugs was Bleomycin, an anti-tumor drug that is typically prescribed in combination with other chemotherapy medications.
Bleomycin is well-known to have the potential for causing severe lung problems. Patients taking the drug are closely monitored for any signs or symptoms of developing lung disease, including discomfort breathing, shortness of breath, wheezing, fever, or chills.
During her fifth month of chemotherapy, the decedent went to her regular oncology appointment with Northwest Oncology and Hematology in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. At this visit her regular oncologist was out of town, so she saw Dr. Erol Yorulmazoglu instead. It was at this visit that the decedent’s estate contended the medical malpractice occurred.
Two days prior to her appointment with Dr. Yorulmazoglu, the decedent had undergone a pulmonary function test. This test was routine for patients taking Bleomycin and was done to monitor her lung function. However, even though the results of the pulmonary function test were available at her visit with Dr. Yorulmazoglu, the oncologist elected not to review the test results.
As a result of this decision, Dr. Yorulmazoglu failed to diagnose the decedent’s lung disease in its early stages. Had Dr. Yorulmazoglu read the pulmonary function test he would have noted that it demonstrated early signs of a Bleomycin-induced lung injury. Given these tests results, the decedent should have been taken off of Bleomycin immediately; however, she continued to take the anti-tumor medication, which further reduced her lung function.
She died several weeks later. Her estate’s medical malpractice complaint contended that her death was a result of respiratory failure due to bleomycin lung toxicity, meaning that the lung became inflamed and scarred as a result of the anti-cancer drug.
It was argued at the Illinois wrongful death trial that the oncologist should have diagnosed the decedent with Bleomycin lung toxicity and discontinued that drug from her chemotherapy protocol. Had that drug been withheld, the decedent’s estate argued that the her lung injury would likely have stabilized or improved.
However, the defendant maintained that the decedent’s death was not related to the use of the chemotherapy drug. Rather, the defense argued that the decedent died of a kind of pneumonia related to an infection to which immunocompromised patients are susceptible. The defendants supported this theory by arguing that there was no clinical or radiographic evidence of Bleomycin toxicity, nor did the decedent have any risk factors that would indicate toxicity. In addition, the defense contended that her positive response to the cancer treatment meant that the standard of care was to continue treating her cancer with all four chemotherapy drugs.
After a three week jury trial, the jury entered its $5.42 million verdict in the Illinois wrongful death case. Of the total verdict amount, the jury assessed noneconomic damages at $5.34 million, including $4.7 million for loss of society. The verdict exceeded the amount of the defendant’s insurance coverage which was $2 million. The surviving family is considering options available to cover the excess amount of the verdict which could be a settlement of potential action against the insurer or the medical practice under a “bad faith” action.
Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois medical malpractice lawsuits and Chicago wrongful death cases for families and individuals for more than 35 years in and around Chicago, Cook County, and their surrounding areas, including Lynwood, Maywood, Bridgeport (Chicago), Melrose Park and Oak Lawn.
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