Failure To Diagnose Lung Cancer: $2.25M Settlement
2015 Medical Malpractice Trial Report
Failure of surgeon to follow-up on radiology finding of concerning lung mass discovered during elective surgery leads to death of 64-year-old woman
The decedent died from metastatic lung cancer on 6/4/10 at the age of 64.
The decedent underwent gastric bypass surgery on 9/8/08. Following the procedure an abdominal and pelvic CT scan was performed. As an incidental finding, the radiologist noted a concerning mass in the left lower lobe of her lung measuring 1.6 x 0.9 cm. The radiologist notified the defendant surgical resident of the finding and indicated that there needed to be follow-up to determine whether the mass was cancer. The resident never informed the decedent of the abnormal finding. The lung nodule was also noted by the defendant attending surgeon in his discharge summary, but he acknowledged that he never mentioned it to the decedent nor included any instructions about follow-up care for the mass. The attending surgeon did send the discharge summary, which included the information about the mass, to the defendant primary care physician.
The defendant primary care physician saw the decedent many times over the next 18 months. At no point in time did the primary care physician notify the decedent of the mass. He also never ordered a CT scan or any type of imaging to determine whether it was a cancerous mass.
On 3/25/10, the decedent underwent a CT scan of her chest because of nausea, vomiting, cough, and shortness of breath. The scan showed a large mass-like growth in the left lower lobe measuring 5.5 cm. The decedent underwent a biopsy which was positive for metastatic poorly differentiated squamous cell carcinoma. It was quickly determined that the decedent’s lung cancer had spread throughout her body and treatment would not be helpful. She was placed hospice care and died on 6/2/10.
The plaintiff was prepared to present expert testimony that all of the defendants failed to inform the decedent of her lung nodule and order a chest CT scan to evaluate the nodule. The plaintiffs were prepared to present expert testimony that had the defendants ordered a chest CT, the decedent’s lung cancer would have been diagnosed 17 months earlier when it could have been cured.
The defendants denied they did anything wrong. The surgeons indicated they believed it was the defendant primary care physician’s responsibility to follow-up while the PCP indicated that he expected the surgeons would order the appropriate testing.
The case settled for $2,250,000 on the first day of trial.
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