Medical Verdicts

How was cervical cancer missed?


Suffolk County (NY) Supreme Court

A woman in her early 50s had irregular vaginal bleeding attributed to fibroids. A hysterectomy was recommended on 2 different occasions a year apart, but the woman declined the procedure each time. The following year she was admitted to a hospital with fever, vomiting, and abdominal pain.

Three days later an exploratory laparotomy revealed a complex mass extending from the bladder peritoneum to the cul-de-sac and involving the lower uterine segment. The anterior mass was removed but not the posterior mass, because the colon was also adhered to the posterior portion of the uterus. The posterior mass was drained. Biopsy results of the anterior mass were negative. After discharge, 2 subsequent Pap smears 3 months apart were negative, but 4 months later a gynecological consultant diagnosed stage IVa cervical cancer. The woman underwent chemotherapy and radiation, and had a colostomy.

In suing, the woman faulted the defendants for failing to discover the cancer during her hospitalization. The defense countered that the woman failed to agree to a hysterectomy when recommended on 2 separate occasions and that the cancer was not discoverable during her hospitalization based on negative Pap smear results.

  • The jury returned a defense verdict.
The cases in this column are selected by the editors of OBG Management from Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts, with permission of the editor, Lewis Laska, of Nashville, Tenn ( The available information about the cases presented here is sometimes incomplete; thus, pertinent details of a given situation may be unavailable. Moreover, the cases may or may not have merit. Nevertheless, these cases represent the types of clinical situations that typically result in litigation and are meant to illustrate nationwide variation in jury verdicts and awards.

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