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Misdiagnosis of cancer results in death, $16.7 million verdict

Anyone in Connecticut who goes to an emergency room with symptoms of pain or discomfort is looking for a diagnosis that will ease his or her suffering. Many patients can be relieved of their symptoms with immediate or short-term treatment.

When a doctor fails to diagnose a serious disease that ultimately results in the death of the patient, a lawsuit may be successful in proving that medical malpractice of a healthcare professional or hospital contributed to or caused the death.

A woman who was first treated at an emergency room for a cough that would not go away died less than two years later, allegedly as the result of a radiologist’s failure to diagnose lung cancer.

The jury in the case agreed, awarding the woman’s daughter $16.7 million. The verdict was against the hospital and the doctor who missed the cancer upon her first visit to the emergency room. At that time, she was sent home with antibiotics for an upper respiratory infection.

A little over a year later, the woman visited the same hospital because of her worsened medical condition. A different doctor found that the woman had advanced lung cancer, using a CT scan rather than the chest X-ray ordered by the first doctor. Seven months later, the 47-year-old woman was dead.

The doctor maintains that, even though his diagnosis was appropriate according to accepted standards of care, her cancer was already incurable when she first visited the emergency room. Plans to request a new trial are in the works.

Any death from cancer can be the end of a long emotional and painful journey for both the patient and his or her loved ones. But when a delayed diagnosis affects the patient’s potential for recovery, or at least an opportunity to mitigate the pain and symptoms associated with the disease, it may be appropriate to hold the appropriate parties accountable. 

Source: The Boston Globe, "Jury awards $16.7M in Boston malpractice suit," June 30, 2014

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