Articles Posted in Misdiagnosing Cancer

Sean Pedley was 43 when he developed a lump in his left thigh. An internist, Dr. Syed Danish, ordered an x-ray that did not signify or later lead to a diagnosis. Pedley’s mass grew and became painful over the next two years.

When a later biopsy of the mass was analyzed, it showed that it was synovial sarcoma, a soft-tissue cancer.

By the time the correct diagnosis was made, the soft-tissue cancer had metastasized to Pedley’s spine.
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Gerald Teeuwen, 77, developed a persistent cough. He went to an urgent care facility and later underwent a chest x-ray, which was interpreted as showing a density in his left lung. Teeuwen was referred to a pulmonologist, Dr. Peter Birk.

Dr. Birk ordered a second chest x-ray, which radiologist Dr. Jack Lowdon read as normal. Dr. Lowdon did not compare the two films, which had not been provided to him. The following year, Teeuwen was diagnosed as having Stage IV lung cancer with metastasis to his brain and bones. He was unable to tolerate his chemotherapy and brain radiotherapy treatments. Teeuwen died of lung cancer four months later. He was survived by his wife and two adult children.

Teeuwen’s wife, on behalf of his estate and family, sued Drs. Birk and Lowdon alleging their negligence in choosing not to timely diagnose lung cancer. The Teeuwen family alleged that both physicians should have reviewed the first chest x-ray and that Dr. Lowdon had misread the second study. If Teeuwen would have received an earlier diagnosis, the family and the estate argued, he would have had a chance for cure and survival.
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A lawsuit has been filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) in a Louisiana federal court. The lawsuit claims that the patient, Lucille Bruno, died because a federally funded clinic ignored signs of breast cancer that led to her death. The lawsuit seeks $5 million in damages.

The surviving children and husband of Lucille Bruno have alleged that Southwest Primary Healthcare and its nurse practitioner who examined Bruno chose not to properly react to what is claimed as signs and symptoms of breast cancer. Southwest Primary Healthcare is a federally funded clinic, which means the U.S. government is a defendant in this case along with the nurse practitioner, Debbie Vidrine.

In September 2013, Bruno first went to an emergency room in Louisiana. She was complaining of breast pain and told the doctors of a lump in her breast. The hospital, which is not a party to this lawsuit, sent her on her way with instructions to follow up with another primary care physician should her symptoms continue.
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This case involved a medical malpractice action for a lost chance. The parties jointly sought direct discretionary review under Washington law, RAP 2.3(b)(4), challenging two pretrial rulings:

(1) whether a court should use a “but for” or “substantial factor” standard of causation in loss of chance cases; and (2) whether evidence relating to a contributory negligence defense should be excluded based on the plaintiff’s failure to follow his doctor’s instructions.

The trial court decided that the “but for” standard applies and the contributory negligence defense was not appropriate in this case. “Traditional tort causation principles guide a loss of chance case.” Applying those established principles, under the circumstances here, the Supreme Court concluded a “but for” cause analysis was appropriate and affirmed the trial court’s ruling on that issue. The court reversed the trial court’s partial summary judgment dismissing the contributory negligence defense. The case was remanded for further proceedings.
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Janice Rowland, 59, underwent a Pap smear that was interpreted as normal. Two and half years later, she developed post-menopausal bleeding and pelvic pain. She then underwent a cervical biopsy. The biopsy led to a diagnosis of metastatic cervical cancer, and she died several months later. Rowland was survived by her husband.

On behalf of her estate, her husband sued Quest Diagnostics, which was the company that misread the Pap smear. It was alleged in the lawsuit that its cytotechnologist misinterpreted the Pap smear slides. If read correctly, the slide would have showed evidence of cancer and necessitated review by a pathologist. The lawsuit did not claim lost income.

The jury signed a verdict for $4 million. However, it was reported that post-trial motions are pending.
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Mr. Doe, age 48, was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He underwent laparoscopic bilateral lymph node dissection surgery by two HMO urologists. During this surgery, the obturator nerve was severed, which left Mr. Doe unable to control his right leg. He was unable to continue in his job as a grounds maintenance worker. He has lost $5,000 in income. He now works at a less strenuous job for the same salary.

Mr. Doe sued the HMO claiming its urologists negligently performed the laparoscopy. The lawsuit specifically claimed that the doctors chose not isolate and protect the nerve while trying to remove the lymph node packet and chose not reattach the nerve after it was transected.

The defendants argued that the injury to the obturator nerve is rare.  They also maintained that severing that nerve is a known complication of this surgery. Before trial, the parties settled confidentially.

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Leanna Loud was 39 years old when she underwent a digital mammogram. The radiologist and defendant, Dr. Jeffrey Short, an employee of Charleston Radiologists, read the mammogram as showing dystrophic calcifications in the right breast; this was not present on an earlier mammogram.

Dr. Short characterized the calcifications as benign and did not order any additional testing.

Approximately 2 years later, she discovered a lump in her right breast. She was diagnosed as having Stage III invasive ductal carcinoma.

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On Aug. 4, 2011, Jill Prusak filed a medical malpractice case within both the two-year statute of limitation and four-year statute of repose under Section 13-212(a). The lawsuit contained a two-count complaint against the defendants, University of Chicago Medical Center and other medical providers who have since been dismissed from the case. It was alleged that Dr. Rama Jager misdiagnosed Prusak’s macular pathology and that this misdiagnosis led to the defendants’ choosing to not recognize nervous system lymphoma.

The first count alleged negligence against the University of Chicago defendants and asserted that Dr. Jager was an agent or apparent agent of the University of Chicago defendants.  The second count of the complaint made the same allegations with respect to Advocate defendants and the Christ Hospital defendants.

Prusak died on Nov. 24, 2013 after the expiration of the four-year statute of repose. On March 11, 2014, the trial court granted Prusak’s daughter, Sheri Lawler, leave to file an amended complaint, substituting herself as party plaintiff and as the executor of Prusak’s estate.

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Glenn Garofano, 63, underwent an ultrasound of his gallbladder, which revealed gallstones and a 4-cm mass on his liver. He then underwent a CT scan, which radiologist Dr. Clifford Barker reported as showing no evidence of a mass. Dr. Barker also suggested that Garofano consider an MRI. Thirteen months later, Garofano was hospitalized for Lyme disease and underwent testing, which led to a diagnosis of metastatic liver cancer that had spread to his heart.

Garofano died two months after the diagnosis and was survived by his wife and three adult children. His family filed a lawsuit against Dr. Barker alleging that he chose not to order the MRI or a liver biopsy in light of the previous test results. It was claimed that had adequate testing been done and a timely diagnosis been received, Garofano would have had a 42% chance of survival. The lawsuit does not claim lost income. Thus, the lawsuit was for the lost opportunity to save Garofano from his untimely death. The jury’s verdict was for $7 million.

The attorney representing the Garofano family was Paul A. O’Connor.

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Benjamin Serico was 58 years old when he underwent a colonoscopy done by a colorectal surgeon, Dr. Robert Rothberg. Dr. Rothberg informed Serico that the test did not reveal any signs of colon cancer.

Two years later, Serico was diagnosed with having metastatic colon cancer; despite a treatment plan, Serico later died of the cancer. He had been an assistant professor and was survived by his wife and two sons.

The Serico family sued Dr. Rothberg, claiming that his choosing not to remove a polyp during the colonoscopy procedure and then failing to properly perform the test, led to the late diagnosis of cancer. The jury’s verdict was $6 million in favor of the estate of Serico and his wife for the wrongful death and medical malpractice.

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