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Failure to diagnose cancer results in patient death


Ann Arbor residents today are used to the kinds of campaigns designed to raise awareness of certain health conditions. From the "ice bucket challenge" of ALS to breast cancer awareness month, these efforts may help convince some to seek out screening and early detection measures that might help them catch a dangerous condition early on.

However, test results may be misinterpreted even when patients are already suffering from symptoms. This was the case with an East Coast man who went to the doctor five years ago suffering from pain in his abdomen. An ultrasound of his gallbladder was ordered, and eventually another due to the presence of a mass in his liver.

The physician reporting on the follow-up liver tests noted cirrhosis, but nothing else. The patient went on to receive treatment for Lyme disease a year later, during which further testing revealed a mass in his heart. The mass was identified as cancer; the disease had spread from his liver during the year after the physician originally failed to diagnose cancer in the liver ultrasound.

The patient died not long after the final cancer diagnosis. His wife, daughter and two sons were awarded a total of $7 million by a jury in a medical malpractice suit. One factor in the award amount was the sons' loss of their father's guidance in running the family business, which they had taken over from him.

Early detection can be a valuable practice, but a physician's failure to diagnose a condition based on those test results can still lead to tragic results. A medical malpractice suit is one way for surviving family members to hold a negligent physician accountable in these situations.

Source: NJ.com, "Family of man who died from cancer awarded $7M in malpractice case," Ben Horowitz, Oct. 29, 2015

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Goethel Engelhardt, PLLC
3049 Miller Road
Ann Arbor, MI 48103

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