Medical Verdicts

Late cervical cancer diagnosis leads to death


Cook County (Ill) Circuit Court

On 4 visits between August 1996 and February 1997, a woman complained to her gynecologist of vaginal bleeding. The woman’s condition was diagnosed as cervicitis.

Despite a January 1997 Pap smear that was read as normal, the patient was diagnosed with cervical cancer in February 1997. In November 1999 she died as a result of her condition.

In suing, the patient’s family claimed the woman’s abnormal vaginal bleeding should have prompted a biopsy to rule out cervical cancer. The family also claimed the cytology lab and 2 cytotechnologists were negligent for allegedly misreading Pap smears conducted 1 and 3 years before the diagnosis.

The doctors argued that they were within the standard of care in relying on the patient’s history of negative Pap smears, considering that she was at low risk for cervical cancer and that, given her history, cervicitis was more likely than cancer to cause her bleeding.

  • The jury awarded the plaintiff $5.25 million against the physicians, but the doctors settled for $3 million while the jury was deliberating. In addition, the cytology lab settled for $1.1 million.
The cases presented here were compiled by Lewis L. Laska, editor of Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts ( While there are instances when the available information is incomplete, these cases represent the types of clinical situations that typically result in litigation.

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