Thyroid Cancer Diagnosis Delay: $1 Million Settlement

2012 Medical Malpractice Trial Lawyer’s Report

Death of 69-year-old woman from complications of Stage 4 thyroid cancer

The plaintiff’s decedent died from complications of Stage 4 thyroid cancer in September 2006 at age 69. The plaintiff’s decedent presented to the defendant primary care physician on multiple occasions between May 2004 and February 2006. During these visits, the plaintiff’s decedent complained of various symptoms, including difficulty breathing, pain in her throat, a lump in her throat, a persistent cough, vomiting, acid reflux, and fatigue. The defendant was unable to palpate a throat lump himself; however, he referred the decedent to an ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT) for further evaluation. The ENT was unable to palpate any type of throat lump or nodule, and the remainder of the work-up failed to reveal an obvious cause for her symptoms. Ultimately, the defendant concluded that the plaintiff’s decedent’s complaints were symptoms of acid reflux, a persistent cough, and sleep apnea. In February 2006, the plaintiff’s decedent was diagnosed with advanced stage thyroid cancer after experiencing respiratory compromise from an obstructing lesion. The plaintiff’s experts were prepared to testify that the defendant failed to recognize the plaintiff’s decedent’s signs and symptoms of thyroid cancer and failed to order the appropriate diagnostic testing to evaluate her complaints. They were further prepared to testify that as result of the defendant’s delay in diagnosis of the decedent’s thyroid cancer, the cancer was allowed to grow and cause tracheal stenosis and difficulty breathing. Her cause of death was cardiopulmonary arrest as a consequence of thyroid cancer and tracheal stenosis.

The defendant and his expert were prepared to testify that because neither he nor the ear, nose and throat specialist could palpate a lump in the decedent’s throat, a biopsy was not warranted. They were also prepared to testify that acid reflux is the most common cause of the decedent’s symptoms and that the diagnosis was reasonable under the circumstances and in compliance with accepted medical standards.

Lubin & Meyer attorneys represented the plaintiff in this lawsuit. (Andrew C. Meyer, Jr. and Nicholas D. Cappiello, Middlesex Superior Court)

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