Medical Verdicts

Medical Verdicts

NOTABLE JUDGMENTS AND SETTLEMENTS IN BRIEF


 

Despite signs of cancer, estrogen is given

After 2 years of mammograms showing signs of breast cancer and the continued administration of estrogen medications, a 55-year-old woman underwent a modified radical left mastectomy and left axillary dissection, followed by extensive radiation therapy and chemotherapy. She suffered extensive radiation burns to her chest wall, chronic arm swelling due to lymphedema, and nerve damage to the hands due to the chemotherapy. She underwent a total of 9 surgeries.

PATIENT’S CLAIM The gynecologist was negligent for not referring her to a surgeon after 2 years of mammograms indicated cancer and for continuing to administer estrogen medications. The delayed diagnosis allowed the cancer to grow to nearly 9 cm and spread to the lymph nodes, thus requiring extensive surgery and treatment, rather than a simple lumpectomy and breast radiation.

DOCTOR’S DEFENSE Not reported.

VERDICT A jury returned a verdict of $5.65 million for the plaintiff and $300,000 for the husband for lost consortium.

Postcoital bleeding fails to alert Gyn to cancer

A 35-year-old woman suffered postcoital bleeding and was diagnosed with cervicitis by her gynecologist. After 10 months with no improvement despite 9 more examinations and antibiotic treatment, a colposcopy performed by a second gynecologist revealed cervical adenocarcinoma. A hysterectomy was performed.

PATIENT’S CLAIM The first gynecologist should have performed a colposcopy and biopsies to diagnose the cancer and start treatment, thus avoiding the hysterectomy and increasing her life expectancy.

DOCTOR’S DEFENSE Cervical cancer is seldom diagnosed at an early stage, and this cancer was located where early detection by colposcopy was impossible. In this case, a hysterectomy would have been necessary anyway.

VERDICT Defense verdict.

Doctor sutures bladder, calls dye spill a “typo”

After having suffered severe pelvic pain and bleeding for years, a 25-year-old woman underwent a total hysterectomy. Following surgery, she began to have bladder problems. When it was discovered that her bladder had been sutured three times during the surgery, she underwent repair surgery, but she remained incontinent.

PATIENT’S CLAIM According to the surgical record, blue dye was observed coming from her bladder during surgery, which should have alerted the doctor to investigate and repair the injury.

DOCTOR’S DEFENSE The physician admitted suturing the bladder, a known complication, but claimed the injury was not immediately apparent. Also, no dye spilled from the bladder - that was just a typographical error.

VERDICT Defense verdict.

Small abdomen worries mother, not doctor

A 24-year-old pregnant woman had monthly visits with her ObGyn from May to November. In October, she indicated that 2 pregnant friends had larger abdomens than she did at similar stages of pregnancy, but she was told everything was fine. In November, she requested an ultrasound on 3 occasions, but was told it was not necessary. In late November, she reported to the clinic complaining of cramps. Fetal demise was diagnosed, she was admitted to the hospital, where delivery was induced, and she went home the next day.

PATIENT’S CLAIM The fetus would not have died if the ObGyn had performed the appropriate tests when she was first concerned about the small size of her abdomen.

DOCTOR’S CLAIM Intrauterine growth retardation is rare and difficult to diagnose, and it has a high morbidity rate. Also, the mother was instructed to report diminished fetal movement, but she had failed to do so.

VERDICT After a trial resulted in a hung jury, a confidential settlement was reached.

Placental abruption or burst fetal blood vessel?

When a pregnant woman at term called her ObGyn after waking in a pool of blood, he questioned her and then sent her to the hospital. Physical assessment, fetal monitoring, and ultrasound were conducted. A cesarean section was performed when vaginal exam revealed that the fetus was remote from a vaginal delivery. After birth the newborn was unstable. She was transferred to another hospital, where she died soon thereafter.

PATIENT’S CLAIM The mother believed she had a placental abruption and claimed the baby would have survived had the delivery been done even 20 minutes earlier.

DOCTOR’S DEFENSE According to information the mother gave on the phone, bleeding was not due to placental abruption. She was no longer bleeding when she arrived at the hospital and had no abdominal pain. A ruptured fetal blood vessel caused the severe blood loss, and the baby would have died even if delivered earlier.

VERDICT A $500,00 verdict was returned.

Referring Gyn: “not responsible” for sponge

A 36-year-old woman’s gynecologist, Doctor 1, referred her to an ObGyn, Doctor 2, to perform a reversal of a tubal ligation. During the procedure, a lap sponge rolled in plastic was left in the patient despite a correct sponge count reported by the nurses. During her hospital stay and 4 office visits with Doctor 2, she reported pain, but a vaginal ultrasound was negative. One year later, she complained of excruciating pain to Doctor 1, who felt a mobile mass. Abdominal ultrasound showed nothing. When a CT tech told her to see her doctor after a CT scan, she was alarmed and immediately had an x-ray done, which indicated a retained foreign body. The patient sought another opinion when Doctor 1 asked her to sign a form for exploratory surgery before he had reviewed the CT results himself. Doctor 3 diagnosed the problem immediately and removed the sponge. She has had few physical problems since then.

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