A woman who alleged that she has suffered due to a delayed cancer diagnosis has been awarded $48 million by a jury.
Her Medical Condition
When the plaintiff was just 21-years-old she presented at the emergency room with extreme back pain. At that time, the ER doctors suspected that the pain was caused by uterine fibroids and suggested that she make appointments with both her primary care physician and her gynecologist.
Her primary care doctor referred her to an orthopedist. Meanwhile, her gynecologist performed a lysis of adhesions, which is a procedure to remove scar tissue, which will hopefully reduce the amount of pain felt by the patient. Despite this, the back pain continued. One year later, the plaintiff underwent an MRI which showed that her back pain was caused by an intramedullary astrocytoma.
The intramedullary astrocytoma is a spinal tumor which is considered to be slow growing. In the medical community, the general consensus is that the tumor is best treated by surgical excision. However, the sooner this surgery takes place, the better.
By the time that the plaintiff was diagnosed, it took three surgeries over six years for doctors to completely remove the tumor. She was forced to remain hospitalized for six months and underwent four months of rehab therapy. As a result of her treatment, the plaintiff has been left with reduced function in her legs and needs either crutches and leg braces to walk, or a wheelchair.
The Medical Malpractice Complaint
The complaint was filed against numerous parties, including her primary care physician, her gynecologist and his practice, the hospital which owns the emergency room she initially visited, and a second primary care doctor. She alleges that the doctors and hospital were negligent for failing to diagnosis the source of her back pain in a reasonable amount of time, and as a result, the tumor was not removed early enough, causing her further injury.
Prior to going to trial, several settlements were made and the plaintiff received the following amounts:
- $600,000 from the gynecologist and his practice
- $100,000 from the hospital that owns the emergency room
- $175,000 from the second primary care doctor
Her original primary care doctor refused to settle, however, and the case was tried before a judge and jury.
Her doctor stated that because he had only seen her three times – once prior to her gynecological surgery, once for a headache, and once for the back pain – he was not responsible for her misdiagnosis. He referred her as he saw fit, and never saw her again. He also claimed that the plaintiff was partially responsible because the second doctor she saw referred her to a neurologist in January of 2011 – she didn’t go until July of 2011.
After review, the jury determined that her original primary care physician was 30% at fault, the hospital was 25%, the gynecologist was 25% at fault, the second primary care doctor was 10% at fault, and the orthopedist was 10% at fault. Ultimately, they awarded $29,500,000 for pain and suffering and $18,450,000 for medical expenses and rehabilitation services.
Cancer Misdiagnosis Cases
It has been estimated that nearly 464,000 American cancer patients are misdiagnosed every year. The top five misdiagnosed cancers include breast cancer, lung cancer, lymphoma, ovarian cancer, and pancreatic cancer. While there have been amazing medical advances in recent years, the chance of any patient being successfully treated is greater with early diagnosis. If the correct diagnosis isn’t made early on, the patient may have to suffer through treatments and pain that could have been avoided.
When patients are misdiagnosed, it is possible that they can seek compensation via a medical malpractice lawsuit. The majority of medical malpractice lawsuits are filed against a primary care physician, however, they can also involve pathologists, specialists, physical therapists, and even nurses.