Smith, Meier & Webb, LPA

Judge awards breast cancer survivor damages for delayed diagnosis

For many years people in the Springboro, Ohio, area tuned in to watch the antics of a Vicodin-addicted genius diagnostic doctor who puzzled over rare symptoms, usually coming to the proper diagnosis by the end of the hour. Along the way, the early diagnoses typically were off the mark. In the real world, the failure to diagnose may delay a proper diagnosis for long periods of time. And unlike in fictional drama, a simple pill may not solve the true issue that was missed in the first place.

Take, for instance, the failure to diagnose cancer. The disease can continue to grow during the delay. As the cancer develops, it may also spread, leading to the need for more aggressive treatment and reduced probabilities that the treatment will be successful.

That was the issue in a recent medical malpractice case that was tried before a federal judge in the south. A woman noted two lumps in her breast during the summer of 2008. She went to an army medical facility to get tested, but a series of errors delayed full testing for roughly two years. Initially, staff members detected a palpable lump and recommended further testing. But, the recommendation was put in the wrong file, and further testing did not happen.

Still concerned about the issue, the woman returned to the medical facility in November 2008, and again the additional testing orders were somehow canceled or modified, further causing a delay in a proper diagnosis, according to the medical negligence lawsuit. In 2010, the woman was finally diagnosed with breast cancer. Her oncologist says that in 2008, the cancer was probably Stage 1 cancer, which would have been more easily treatable.

As it turned out, the cancer was not discovered until it had reached Stage 3. The women needed aggressive treatment. She had a double mastectomy, had numerous lymph nodes taken out and underwent chemotherapy. However, her cancer doctor says that she has a 60 percent chance of having the cancer return, which would likely be a death sentence, according to the doctor.

The federal judge found the facility negligent in its staff's inability to properly diagnose the breast cancer in a timely manner. The judge awarded the woman and her husband several million dollars under that state's medical malpractice laws.

When it comes to cancer, the failure to diagnose can be a dire issue. People in Ohio may understand that early detection is vital in cases of cancer.

Source: Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle, "Clarksville couple awarded $5.2M after Blanchfield fails to timely diagnose cancer," Stephanie Ingersoll, April 23, 2014

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