A true story: Doing the right thing paid off


After reading the article, “Cutting the legal risk of breast cancer screening,” by Dr. Samuel Zylstra and colleagues (September 2005), I decided to let you know about a recent lawsuit I was involved in. Perhaps it will remind those of us in the trenches that doing the right thing occasionally pays off.

When a 41-year-old patient complained of breast pain around the left nipple, and observed that it felt similar to the puerperal mastitis she had experienced 3 years earlier, I told her to have a mammogram, placed her on antibiotics, and reexamined her 2 weeks later, at which time I palpated a mass.

Since she had not yet made an appointment for the mammogram, we set her up to see the radiologist the same day. A biopsy of the mass confirmed infiltrating ductal breast cancer, and she underwent a modified radical mastectomy. Six months later, I received a summons for failing to diagnose her breast cancer in a timely fashion. The patient’s record revealed that she had been advised to undergo mammography 4 times over the 2.5 years preceding her diagnosis, yet had never done so until the day the mass was palpated.

Her counsel admitted failing to review the case prior to filing suit and volunteered to withdraw the suit if I agreed not to counter sue or file a bar complaint. I agreed, provided my legal expenses were paid in full, plus a reasonable hourly rate for time spent reviewing the case, and a personal letter of apology. Both the plaintiff and her counsel agreed to these terms and voluntarily withdrew the suit.

Brad Youkilis, MD
Lexington, Ky

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