Liver Cancer, Failure to Monitor: $1 Million Settlement

2012 Medical Malpractice Trial Report

Failure to monitor for liver cancer in Asian man with history of Hepatitis B

The plaintiff’s decedent was a 72 year-old Asian man who died from liver cancer. The plaintiff alleged that the man should have been closely monitored for the development of liver cancer given he had chronic Hepatitis B which put him at increased risk for developing liver cancer.

Chronic Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is a leading cause of cancer of the liver. It is more prevalent in Asian males. Chronic HBV infection is defined by the presence of the Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAG) in the blood for a period of six months or more.

The plaintiff claimed it was well known at the time of the negligence that Asian men over 40 years old who test positive for HBsAG or have a history of positive HBsAG, must be further evaluated to confirm chronic Hepatitis B diagnosis, assess the severity of liver disease, and closely monitor for liver cancer.

Surveillance for liver cancer includes, but is not limited to, laboratory studies such as alpha fetoprotein (AFP), liver function tests (LFTs), Hepatitis B serology, and liver or abdominal imaging, such as ultrasound every 6 months. Treatment for hepatocellular carcinoma includes, but is not limited to, liver transplant, surgical resection of the tumor, local chemotherapy ablation, and systemic chemotherapy.

The plaintiff claimed that the defendant PCP failed at each annual physical to recognize and appreciate the significance of a positive Hepatitis B surface antigen; 2) failed to follow up with further serologic testing and diagnose and inform the patient of his chronic Hepatitis B status; and 3) failed to properly monitor the patient every 6 months for liver cancer with serial laboratory and imaging studies including, alpha fetoprotein (AFP), liver function tests (LFTs) including ALP, Hepatitis B serology, and liver or abdominal ultrasound, or refer to a hepatologist for surveillance.

The defendant claimed the patient’s cancer was not amenable to cure regardless of when it was diagnosed, and that nothing the defendant did or failed to do caused or contributed to cause any injury to or the death of the patient.

The case settled during discovery for $1,000,000.

Attorneys for the plaintiff: Andrew C. Meyer and William J. Thompson, Lubin & Meyer, P.C.

Massachusetts: Suffolk Superior Court

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