In 2006, a patient went to the hospital for a chest x-ray. The reviewing radiologist saw a mass in the patient’s left lung, but the radiologist failed to call the emergency room physician and the physician missed the mass as well.
Nearly two years went by before the patient’s lung cancer was actually discovered. The patient returned to the hospital in 2008 due to severe shortness of breath and chest pain. An X-ray showed the mass in the left lung. A lung biopsy confirmed that the patient had cancer. If that wasn’t bad enough, a CT scan of the patient’s head indicated that the cancer metastasized to the brain.
The patient underwent chemotherapy, radiation and gamma-knife brain surgery. Despite this intense level of treatment, the patient died from complications of lung cancer at the young age of 27. He had a family as well – a wife and three young children.
This is a heartbreaking story and it’s frustrating to know that the victim’s three children will be forced to grow up without a father due to the negligence of the ER physician. Unfortunately, we will never know what could have been if the mass in the victim’s lung was discovered in 2006. Could he have survived with an earlier round of treatment? Anything is possible.
The defense by the physician was reportedly that the delay did not change the outcome for the victim, who was likely to die from his aggressive lung cancer, regardless of when the tumor was first diagnosed. The defense must have realized that this argument would not hold up well in court and decided to make a settlement offer that was acceptable to the victim’s family.
Congratulations to the firm that secured the settlement. Our Virginia medical malpractice law firm has handled delayed diagnosis cases and understand how difficult they can be.
For example, our firm represented the estate of a 56-year-old retired FBI agent who visited his family doctor after suffering from chest pains for three days. The family physician claimed that he referred the victim to the emergency room with a provisional diagnosis of impending vascular accident. The emergency room physician diagnosed the victim as having a sore throat and denied receiving a report from the family physician of an impending vascular accident. The emergency room physician released the plaintiff from the emergency room with an appointment with an ENT doctor and conducted no diagnostic test. Four days later the victim died at his home due to a dissecting aortic aneurysm. The autopsy revealed that the dissection was 3 to 6 days old. We recognized that the victim’s death was preventable and worked to get a sizable settlement for his family.