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Medical Malpractice; Failure to Diagnose Breast Cancer - $500,000 Settlement

Type of injuries: Breast cancer
Court/case #: Hampden County Superior Court (number withheld)
Judge or jury: N/A
Name of judge: N/A
Special damages: N/A
Damages awarded or settled: Settled
Amount: $500,000
Attorney for plaintiff:Kenneth I. Kolpan, Boston
Attorney for defendant: Withheld
Name of case: Withheld
Insurer:Joint Underwriter, Insurance
Highest offer: $500,000

Other useful information:

In June 1986, the plaintiff, then a 46-year-old mother of four adult children, went to her gynecologist and reported a mass in her right breast. This defendant palpated a mass in her right breast and referred the plaintiff for a mammogram. No mass was shown on the mammogram. After the mammogram, this defendant did not perform any follow-up examination, biopsy, aspiration, nor did he refer the plaintiff to a general surgeon. In fact, this defendant never saw the plaintiff again.

In June 1987, plaintiff returned for her annual examination and saw the other defendant gynecologist (a partner of the first defendant). She told the second defendant that the lump in the right breast had increased. He wrote in the plaintiffs medical records that she had a nodule most prominent in her left breast. He, too, sent the plaintiff for another mammogram which did not show any suspicious mass in either breast. This defendant did not perform a follow-up examination, biopsy or aspiration, nor did he refer the plain to a general surgeon. The plaintiff never saw this defendant doctor again either Approximately 3 1/2 years after first discovering the mass in her right breast plaintiff was rushed to the hospital because she was unable to walk. A CAT scan showed a mass which, according to treating oncologist, had metastasized from the plaintiffs right breast. A significant mass was removed from her right breast in the same area where the plaintiff had felt and reported a lump to the two doctors.

Suit was brought against each of defendant doctors for their failure to diagnose, properly treat the reported mass in the plaintiffs right breast and the failure to refer the patient to a general surgeon.

Plaintiff's two experts, a gynecologist and an oncologist, were expected to testify that each of the defendants deviated from the standard of acceptable medical practice for gynecologists in 1986-1987 relying upon 'normal' mammograms failing to perform follow-up examinations to see whether the reported mass persisted and failing to refer plaintiff to general surgeon for a biopsy and /or aspiration. Plaintiffs experts were also going to testify that a persistent mass must be investigated further by biopsy and/or aspiration even if there is a "normal' mammogram. Plaintiffs experts were expected to testify that each of the defendants violated standards set forth by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American Cancer Society.

The first defendant claimed that he relied upon the findings of the normal m. mammogram in not performing any follow-up examination. The second defendant claimed that the plaintiff reported lump in her left, not her right breast an that the plaintiff had fibrocystic disease in 1987. Both defendants faulted the plaintiff for failing to make appointments with the defendants for annual examination in 1988 and 1989.

Plaintiffs subsequent treating oncologist testified that the plaintiff likely had Stage I breast cancer when she first reported a lump to the defendant doctors in 1986 and 1987 and that Stage I cancer is treatable. The oncologist further testified that when she diagnosed the plaintiffs metastatic cancer in 1990, the plaintiff was in Stage IV cancer, which is non-curable. Her cancer had spread her pelvis, skull, femur and spine.

Published with permission of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.