Gerald Culhane went to his primary care physician at Buffalo Veterans Administration Medical Center, complaining of a lump in his neck over a three-month period. A CT scan was reviewed by a radiologist as being unremarkable. Culhane was told that he did not require a follow-up.
About a year and a half later, he called the Veteran’s Administration and reported that his neck lump was continuing to grow. Another CT scan led to a diagnosis of squamous cell carcinoma in the left tonsil, which required 40 rounds of radiation and 7 cycles of chemotherapy. The cancer recurred. Culhane later underwent a radical tonsillectomy and neck dissection.
Culhane and his wife sued the United States under the Federal Torts Claims Act (FTCA), alleging that the Veteran’s Administration Hospital chose not to timely diagnose squamous cell carcinoma. The Culhane family also alleged that a mass was obviously present when the first CT scan was done and that the scan was wrongly interpreted as negative.