This article stems from a recent medical malpractice settlement our firm had on a failure to diagnose colon cancer case. The names of the parties and the amount of the settlement are confidential.
We represented the family of an elderly female, who underwent a screening colonoscopy at a Chicago-based hospital which was performed by a gastroenterologist. During the colonoscopy, it was recognized that the elderly female had diverticulosis, internal hemorrhoids and what appeared to be a tortuous (marked by repeated twists and bends) colon. Additionally, she had a prior examination revealing colonic polyps and a history of first degree relative with colon cancer. These factors significantly increased her risk of developing a colon cancer.
It was our position that the doctor’s examination was substandard, more likely than not missing a significant neoplasm (an abnormal mass of tissue that forms when cells grow and divined more than usual or do not die when they should). Based on the elderly lady’s difficult anatomy and her higher risk for having a neoplasm, the colonoscopy required a detailed examination, certainly a more detailed examination than was documented.
Approximately two years after the colonoscopy mentioned above, a repeat colonoscopy was performed by a different doctor at a different Chicago-based hospital. This doctor, also a gastroenterologist, recognized a large malignant mass in the sigmoid colon. If the original doctor, in the original colonoscopy had complied with accepted standards of care, a significant neoplasm or frank cancer would have been recognized. It was our position that the doctor who performed the original colonoscopy failed to diagnose colon cancer, resulting in death.
On behalf of the decedent’s family, we filed a wrongful death medical malpractice lawsuit alleging that the original gastroenterologist breached her duty by committing one or more of the following careless and negligent acts and/or omissions: Failed to properly perform the screening colonoscopy; Misinterpreted the images from the colonoscopy; Failed to diagnose a lesion or neoplasm in the woman’s colon; Failed to perform a timely repeat colonoscopy; Failed to order additional diagnostic studies; Failed to diagnose colon cancer; Failed to treat colon cancer; Failed to appropriately monitor and manage the woman’s condition; and Failed to adequately and appropriately communicated with the woman and her other healthcare providers.
The case was defended vigorously as most medical malpractice cases are. Many depositions took place. We ended up disclosing two experts, a board-certified gastroenterologist, who offered standard of care opinions against the defendant doctor. Additionally, we disclosed a board-certified medical oncologist to offer causation opinions.
Not once while the case was pending was settlement explored as the defense said they would rather take their chances at trial than settle this case, something we often hear in medical malpractice cases. When we showed up on our trial date, the defense lawyers, for the very first time since the case was filed, said they had orders from their insurance company to explore settlement. For the rest of the day, instead of going over pre-trial motions and perhaps picking a jury, we worked with the trial judge to resolve this matter. A lucrative settlement was reached. While the amount of the settlement is confidential, the family members of the decedent were thrilled with the outcome. They got some answers, and they feel like the doctor and the hospital she worked for were finally held responsible for their actions.