On November 25, 2014, after a three-week trial, a Hawaii medical malpractice jury awarded $5.62 million to a 43-year-old man whose cancer was left undiagnosed for two years, during which it grew from the size of a lima bean to the size of a fist. The man had gone to a local Hawaii hospital in 2008 at which time he was examined by a ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor for complaints of pain in his mouth (chronic pain under the last molar that would not go away) and fearing that he had cancer. He was relieved when he was told that he did not have cancer, despite the clinic’s failure to perform testing that would have discovered his cancer.
In 2011, the correct diagnosis of cancer was made (the plaintiff’s cancer was diagnosed as stage 4 adenoid cystic carcinoma) but by then he required extensive surgeries both in Hawaii and in Seattle to remove the cancer from his mouth and jaw and then to reconstruct his face – he had nine surgeries while an inpatient in a hospital in January 2011, some of which were 12 hours long. Surgeons had to use bone from both of his legs and his pectoral muscle to reconstruct his mouth and lower jaw. The plaintiff also had to endure radiation therapy and hyperbaric chamber treatments.
The surgeries left him with the inability to chew on the left side of his mouth, no feeling on the side of his mouth, and with a large lump on the side of his face. In describing his current condition, the man stated, “So, basically when I eat, the saliva comes out of my face because the gland’s not working, so your body will get rid of whatever food it needs to, so it’s going to find a way so it’ll actually come out of the side of my face.”
A spokesperson for the defendant hospital has indicated that the hospital disagrees with the Hawaii medical malpractice jury verdict and is exploring its options.
Medical malpractice cases alleging delay in the diagnosis of cancer are often difficult cases from the plaintiff’s perspective because not only must the plaintiff prove that there was medical negligence that led to the delay in diagnosing cancer but the plaintiff must also prove his/her damages/injuries as a result of the delay – how did the delay affect the plaintiff (could the cancer have been treated more effectively and/or less intrusively had the correct diagnosis been timely made? how did the delay affect the prognosis for the plaintiff, the plaintiff’s life expectancy, the treatment regimen, the quality of life for the plaintiff, etc.?).
If you or a loved one may be the innocent victim of misdiagnosis of cancer or unnecessary delay in diagnosing cancer in Hawaii or in another state in the U.S., you should promptly seek the legal advice of a Hawaii medical malpractice attorney or a medical malpractice attorney in your state who may investigate your cancer claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case involving cancer, if appropriate.
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