$3.5 Million Settlement Chemo Death Trial

Lawsuit claimed chemotherapy regimen was inappropriate treatment for patient due to underlying heart disease

2023 Medical Malpractice Settlement Report
By Andrew H. Miller, Attorney for the Plaintiff
Suffolk Superior Court, Massachusetts

Case background

In October, 2012, the decedent was 28 years-old when he was diagnosed with stage IIB Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. As part of the workup that led to his diagnosis, the decedent underwent an echocardiogram that revealed that he had mild to moderate cardiac valve insufficiency. In late October, he began treating with the defendant, an oncologist, who explained to the decedent that his cancer was highly treatable but that chemotherapy would be required.

Oncologist prescibes ABVD chemotherapy

The standard treatment for patients with stage IIB Hodgkin’s in 2012 was a chemotherapy combination known as ABVD. A known side effect of ABVD was that it could be cardiotoxic, so the standard of care required an evaluation of a patient’s cardiac function prior to initiating ABVD. Despite the concerning findings of the early October echocardiogram, the defendant initiated ABVD therapy on November 1, 2012.

On November 9, 2012, the decedent underwent a second echocardiogram to assess his heart function. This study revealed that his cardiac valve insufficiency and cardiac function had worsened. Nonetheless, the defendant continued the ABVD chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy regimen is continued

By Christmas 2012, the decedent was determined to be cancer-free, but the defendant continued to administer ABVD. During January and February, 2013, the decedent’s health continued to decline, despite the fact that he was cancer-free. He died on February 26, 2023 of ischemic heart disease at 29 years-old.

Lawsuit claims chemo regimen was inappropriate

The plaintiff presented evidence at trial from an oncology expert that ABVD was an inappropriate treatment for the decedent because of his underlying heart disease. The plaintiff presented further evidence that the doxorubicin (Adriamycin) in the ABVD caused thickening of the decedent’s arterial intima. This thickening led to ischemia and, ultimately, death, because the decedent’s underlying cardiac disease predisposed him to not tolerate the arterial changes caused by the ABVD.

The defendant testified in his defense that ABVD was the appropriate treatment for the decedent’s cancer, and that there was nothing about the decedent’s medical history that made ABVD an inappropriate choice. The defendant also offered testimony from a cardiac pathologist that the arterial intima thickening that led to the decedent’s death was caused by thrombotic angiopathy, which is a rare but known autoimmune condition that was triggered by the decedent’s cancer, not by the ABVD. Had the case not settled, the defendant was prepared to offer further expert testimony from an oncologist and an oncologic cardiologist.

The case settled for $3,500,000 after six days of trial.

Lubin & Meyer medical malpractice attorneys Andrew C. Meyer, Jr. and Andrew H. Miller and Griffen Rose represented the plaintiffs in this case.

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