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    Missed kidney cancer diagnosis leads to death, legal action

    Prompt settlement often prudent in malpractice cases involving clear caregiver error

    Dawn Collins, JDDawn Collins, JDA 59-year-old Ohio man presented to a medical center for a computed tomography scan of his right kidney in 2015. The CT scan was interpreted as normal.

    The man was subsequently diagnosed with kidney cancer, and he died about 8 months after the original CT scan was done.

    A lawsuit against the medical center was filed by the man’s estate and alleged that those involved with the performance and interpretation of the CT scan failed to diagnose and therefore did not treat the patient’s kidney cancer and caused his death. The case settled for $500,000.

    LEGAL PERSPECTIVE: This malpractice case was filed by the man’s wife on behalf of his estate almost a year after the man’s death. The medical center elected not to make a defense argument against the allegations of failing to diagnose the kidney cancer, and no discovery was undertaken. Five days after it was filed, the settlement agreement was reached.

    Also by Dawn Collins, JD: Circumcision requiring revision surgery prompts lawsuit

    In malpractice cases where a clear error by the caregivers has occurred and results in the patient suffering an injury, it may be prudent to enter into settlement discussions quickly to come up with a reasonable award of damages. This not only saves the time and money it takes to defend a case through trial, it takes the risk of unpredictable jury awards off the table if a reasonable amount can be agreed upon.

    Fistula after prostatectomy

    A 67-year-old New York man underwent a prostatectomy performed by his urologist. During the operation, the urologist used a laser to destroy a portion of the prostate. After the procedure, the patient developed a recto-urethral fistula. He died a year later of causes unrelated to the surgery.

    The patient’s wife sued the urologist on behalf of the man’s estate and as an individual herself, and alleged that the laser used in the prostatectomy broke down the tissue and that the breakdown caused the development of the fistula. She asserted the urologist should have used another method that would have allowed greater control of the amount of tissue removed.

    The urologist maintained that his procedure destroyed a minimal amount of tissue and did not come in contact with the area that developed the fistula, and that any other method attempted would have led to more complications. He argued that the patient’s fistula was a result of the use of radiation in an earlier attempt to eradicate the cancer, not the laser used during his procedure. The jury returned a defense verdict after deliberating 1 hour at the conclusion of the 4-day trial.

    Next: Loss of testicle due to insufficient blood flow

    Dawn Collins, JD
    MS COLLINS is an attorney specializing in medical malpractice in Long Beach, California. She welcomes feedback on this column via ...

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