$2.0 Million Settlement In Wrongful Death Case Alleging Doctors Caused A Delay In The Discovery Of Female Patient's Colorectal Cancer

While a colonoscopy is generally recommended as a screening proceedure for colorectal cancer for men and women who are fifty years old and older, physicians generally agree that a patient’s complaints of rectal bleeding warrant doing a colonoscopy regardless of the age of the patient. Regardless of whether a colonoscopy or a sigmoidoscopy is actually done, though, if poor preparation or an obstruction prevent the doctor to fully explore the area, doctors generally recommendedthat it should be repeated. Below we analyze a wrongful death lawsuit in which these two practices were ignored by treating doctors.

Look at the following scenario: a woman at the age of 46 tells her primary care physician that she has been experiencing constipation and observing rectal bleeding for more than a month. A month later she tells the doctor that her symptoms have continued. Her physician scheduled her for a sigmoidoscopy. She was seen the following month by a gastroenterologist. The gastroenterologist recorded that the visit was because of bleeding and constipation. But, the gastroenterologist merely performed a sigmoidoscopy instead of a colonoscopy. A sigmoidoscopy just allows the doctor check up to 40 cm from the anus. Although the sigmoidoscopy just permits examination of a limited section of the colon, the physician documented that the proceedure was not completed and that it had not been possible to examine the entire length even of the sigmoid. Despite the poor visualization, the gastroenterologist did not suggest that the test be repeated so as to adequately examine the sigmoid.

Five months later, the woman again saw her primary care physician for a yearly physical. She again told the doctor that she was suffering from constipation. The subsequent year, for the third time she told her physician that she was having constipation. A brief time after one visit the physician documented that the patient’s daughter spoke to the physician about her and the doctor recommended she eat more fiber for irritable bowel syndrome. The doctor also said to the patient’s daughter that he would contemplate ordering a colonoscopy at some point in the future.

At the end of the year, the woman once more informed her physician that she continued to experience constipation. The doctor proposed she take lactulose and come back in a month. When she returned as suggested, the physician recorded that a physical examination revealed tenderness in the lower left quadrant and that he could feel a structure consistent with stool in her colon. At this point, the physician had her thyroid checked and documented his believe that a colonoscopy might be required.

Approximately two weeks later, she ended up in the emergency room because she developed pain and vomiting while prepping for a colonoscopy. The emergency room physician discovered that she had a distended abdomen and could hear hyperactive bowel sounds. in addition, the woman had abdominal tenderness, mainly on the lower left. Given these symptoms the hospital physician ordered a CT scan. The scan found a mass in the sigmoid with metastasis. Two weeks later the patient had surgery to take out the mass which was 4.2 cm. The surgeon determined that her cancer had metastasized throughout a variety of organs. She started chemotherapy for advanced colorectal cancer. The woman did not survive. She passed away a little over four months after her surgery.

The woman’s family pursued a wrongful death lawsuit against her primary care physician and the gastroenterologist. The law firm that handled the matter was able to resolve the matter with a settlement for $ 2,000,000 on behalf of the family. The law restricts the time you have to file a wrongful death claim so if a family member died of stage 4 cancer and you believe they were the victim of medical malpractice you should contact an attorney immediately to figure out whether you may have a valid claim.

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