Case #1003: Lung Cancer
On September 14, the Plaintiff’s Decedent, age 83, presented to the hospital with complaints of chest pain. A chest x-ray was interpreted by the Defendant who reported a normal chest. No further testing and/or studies were conducted. Two years later on January 11, the Decedent was admitted to the hospital due to shortness of breath and chest pain. At that time, a chest x-ray, also read by the Defendant, demonstrated the presence of a 3-centimeter mass in the Decedent’s left upper lung in addition to pleural effusion. A CT scan guided percutaneous biopsy of the lung was performed which confirmed the presence of adenocarcinoma of the lung, Stage IIIA. The Decedent began chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Tragically, due to the advanced stage of the malignancy, the Decedent was unable to complete the treatment course and expired on May 20.
The Plaintiffs alleged that the September 14, chest x-ray demonstrated an early malignancy in the same area as that which was detected two years later on January 11. Had the Defendant interpreted that film in conformity with the standards of care, the early lung malignancy would have been detected at Stage I, with subsequent appropriate surgical intervention and cure. However, as the result of the negligence of the Defendant, the malignancy was negligently left to grow, expand, enlarge, invade, and ultimately metastasize resulting in an ominous diagnosis in January and death that following May. The Decedent was survived by two adult children.
The Defendant denied all allegations of negligence and causation, taking the position that his interpretation of the September 14 film was reasonable and did not require reporting any suspicious nodule. The Defendant also argued that, notwithstanding any alleged negligence, the Decedent’s lung cancer was already advanced at the time of the claimed misdiagnosis, that she was not a surgical candidate for curative lung resection due to her age and comorbid factors and, therefore, her ultimate outcome would have been the same. The case was ultimately settled for an undisclosed amount pending the Defendant’s appeal.