Missed kidney cancer diagnosis leads to death, legal action

Dawn 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


Loss of testicle due to insufficient blood flow

A 10-year-old boy was brought to an Illinois hospital due to pelvic pain. It was determined that the left testicle was undescended and remained in the inguinal canal. An ultrasound was done and interpreted that there was sufficient blood flow to the testicle, and the patient was discharged.

Read: Telephone triage can jeopardize patient safety, lead to litigation

Two days later, he presented to a different hospital where it was determined that the blood flow to the testicle was insufficient and by that time there was irreversible damage and removal was required.

A malpractice case was filed against the physician who interpreted the ultrasound incorrectly and the case was settled for $400,000.

Patient injured during lithotripsy and bladder procedure

A lawsuit was filed after a 44-year-old New York man underwent lithotripsy to break up kidney stones and a procedure to explore his bladder. After the kidney procedure, the patient was moved to another table to perform the bladder exploration. He claimed the OR staff did not use the proper technique while transferring him and he was dropped during the transfer, injuring his back and neck.

Also see: How surgical time-outs may (or may not) lower litigation risk

The defense asserted that the patient did not fall, but that his weight shifted during the transfer, and the staff correctly decided to lower him to the floor. They claimed that the patient had no proof he had fallen. The jury returned a defense verdict after deliberating for an hour at the conclusion of a 5-day trial.

Next: Burn injuries from transurethral microwave therapy


Burn injuries from transurethral microwave therapy

A 63-year-old man developed incontinence and an enlarged prostate. He consulted his urologist, who suggested transurethral microwave therapy to shrink the prostate.

During the procedure, the urologist placed the device and then left the room. The technician took over and continued the therapy. When the patient experienced excessive pain, an ice pack was placed but the therapy continued. The patient developed a fistula and required a colostomy. He became permanently incontinent and had permanent erectile dysfunction. He was unable to return to his job.

Read: Patient sues after stapler misfire leads to rectal tear

The man sued those involved with the therapy and claimed the rectal thermometer used to monitor the prostate was misplaced and that a hole was burned through the rectum and urethra. He also claimed no one responded to his excessive pain, and that the urologist failed to adequately monitor the procedure.

After an initial defense verdict was reversed on appeal, a second jury found in favor of the patient and awarded $3.9 million.

More on Malpractice:

How patient obesity can impact malpractice litigation

Patient dies after prostatectomy; is his urologist at fault?

How spoliation of evidence can cost you in court

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