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Lack of Screening Leads to Colon Cancer Death, Settlement | Debary Malpractice Lawyer

Lack of Screening Leads to Colon Cancer Death, Settlement

Health screenings have become a regular part of our medical care these days. We know that at any given time, there are certain screenings that medical professionals recommend for people our age.

That’s why we depend on our doctors to alert us to those screenings and tests that can help us in our goal for good health. Unfortunately, this man’s doctor failed him in this regard, suggesting the screening at one point, but never following up despite numerous examinations.

The man, 66, had a past history of diabetes, cardiac disease, a heart attack and hypertension, as well as prostate cancer two years prior that required a chemotherapy, radiation and a radical prostatectomy. When he saw his physician of 20 years for a routine check-up, it was noted that the patient was fairly “up-to-date“ for his screenings, but he should have a colonoscopy “sometime.”

Even though medical records indicate the man had never had one, his doctor had intended to discuss this with him the next time he saw him for a more complete exam. The man returned six months later for a full physical, but there was no discussion of a screening colonoscopy and no blood testing was done.

The man presented to the emergency department a year later, complaining of epigastric pain for the previous three days. He was discharged, but returned with the same complaint the next day. An ultrasound revealed he had a large gallstone. A gastrointestinal cocktail was given and the man’s symptoms resolved and he was discharged home.

The man followed up with his doctor four days later, complaining again of epigastric pain and reporting a weight loss of 25 pounds. No changes were noted for blood in his stool or bowel habits. The patient was diagnosed with peptic ulcer disease, and was given a prescription for Nexium. One month later, an upper GI test proved negative for an ulcer or mass.

Six months later, the man called his doctor, complaining of crampy abdominal pain and bloody stools. He was referred to the emergency department to rule out a GI bleed. The man reported he had lower abdominal symptoms for three weeks with the first incidence of bright red blood nine days previously. A colonoscopy was performed and was positive for colon cancer. Subsequent testing revealed the cancer had spread to his liver. The man died three years later from his disease.

The man’s doctor failed to properly screen for colon cancer, or follow up on symptoms, causing a delay in the diagnosis of colon cancer, which resulted in the man’s death. This case was settled for nearly $1 million.

This was a successful medical malpractice case based on the following factors:

Negligence. The doctor failed to provide cancer screening appropriate to the man’s risk, based on age according to clinical guidelines. Doctors should use these national guidelines in assessing a patient’s level of risk, offering an appropriate screening mode and discussing the pros and cons of each.

Doctor did not address the man’s symptoms. Doctors must broaden their diagnoses, seek more information, or consider a consult when dealing with a patient who has continued symptoms or significant weight loss.

Doctor did not state importance of colonoscopy screening. Doctors should strive to raise awareness about and encourage regular colorectal cancer screening at intervals appropriate to a patient’s age.

Doctor did not readdress a screening colonoscopy. Although a doctor may suggest a screening test, a reliable system must be in place to make sure the issue is addressed at the patient’s next visit. Providers should also develop systems to remind them when to schedule routine screenings.

Lack of documentation. When guidelines exist for a specific medical condition, a doctor should document their reason for following, or not following those guidelines. No such documentation was evident.

For more on patient safety issues, see the library of articles by Daytona Beach medical malpractice attorney.


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