$934,000 Cook County Bench Trial in Failure to Diagnose Rectal Cancer

Joseph Farias, age 29, began treatment with the defendant internist, Yolanda Co, M.D., in February 2002. He came to the doctor with complaints of constipation for three years and rectal bleeding. Dr. Co performed a rectal exam and ordered a colonoscopy, which came back negative. There was no cause determined as to why Farias had rectal bleeding.

In October 2003, Farias returned to Dr. Co with new complaints of rectal bleeding. That visit was a cause of what became a medical malpractice lawsuit. This time Dr. Co did a digital rectal exam and diagnosed internal hemorrhoids. In Farias’s Cook County complaint, it was alleged that the internal hemorrhoids could not be diagnosed through digital examination unless the internal hemorrhoids were visualized outside the anus. The standard of care as contended required Dr. Co to perform an anoscopy to properly visualize the hemorrhoids. It was also asserted that should Dr. Co not have the facility to do the anoscopy,  she should have referred Farias to another physician such as a gastroenterologist. 

Dr. Co defended the case by saying that she did observe prolapsing internal hemorrhoids (protruding out of the rectum), even though her chart  stated only internal hemorrhoids. Dr. Co testified that the standard of care required a treating internist such as herself to grade and chart the severity of an internal hemorrhoid, but she admittedly didn’t do that in October 2003.

Dr. Co continued treating the plaintiff over the next three years even though he complained of rectal bleeding into the summer of 2004. By February 2005, Dr. Co diagnosed Farias’ problems as external hemorrhoids.

During a visit in December 2006, Farias requested that Dr. Co order another colonoscopy. The colonoscopy completed on Feb. 8, 2007 showed rectal cancer in the now 34-year-old man. Farias underwent radiation and chemotherapy treatment prior to surgery.  He gave up on chemotherapy after he suffered serious negative reactions. On May 29, 2007, Farias underwent an abdominoperineal resection with removal of the sphincter muscle. This required a permanent colostomy or a bag to receive body waste.

Farias’s wife, Karen, also claimed loss of consortium, emotional stress and difficulties with sexual intercourse due to her husband’s colostomy. The plaintiff claimed that Dr. Co was negligent for choosing not to confirm the source of continued rectal bleeding and choosing not to perform the anoscopy or refer Farias to a gastroenterologist from 2003 to 2005. It was argued that had Farias received anoscopy or been referred to a gastroenterologist by February 2005, his rectal cancer would have been detected earlier and would have been treated differently without the radical surgical interventions. In fact, it was maintained that if earlier diagnosed and treated, Farias would have not needed the permanent colostomy.

The defendant denied that she was negligent, denied the standard of care was missed by requiring an anoscopy and claimed that the treatment course of Farias and the outcome would have been the same if his cancer was discovered on or before Feb. 5, 2005. 

The jury was asked to return a verdict by plaintiff’s counsel, Bryan J. O’Conner Sr. and Eileen M. O’Conner, at the defendant’s policy limits at $1 million. There was no offer to settle the case before trial. 

The jury’s verdict of $934,779 was made up of the following damages:

$854,779 to Joseph Farias made up of these damages:

  • $134,779 for future medical expenses;
  • $720,000 for non-economic damages (pain and suffering experienced)

$80,000 to Karen Farias for loss of consortium.

This case was tried as a bench trial in front of the trial judge only. There was no jury impaneled to consider the evidence, decide the issue of liability or assess the damages. 

Joseph Farias, Karen Farias v. Yolanda Co, M.D., 10 L 3200 (Cook County, Illinois).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling medical negligence for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of a medical provider for more than 37 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Addison, Des Plaines, Glen Ellyn, Niles, Roscoe Village (Chicago), Village of Wilmette, Worth, Ill.

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