On October 5, 2017, a Baltimore medical malpractice jury returned its verdict in the amount of $596,000 ($176,000 in economic damages and $420,000 in noneconomic damages) against a man’s primary care physician for the physician’s role in the negligent failure to diagnose the 55-year-old man’s colon cancer that resulted in his death in 2014, 15 months after it was finally diagnosed. The Baltimore medical malpractice jury deliberated for seven-and-a-half hours after an eight-day trial before rendering its verdict in favor of the plaintiffs.
The basis of the Baltimore medical malpractice claim against the man’s primary care physician was that the primary care physician breached the standard of care in failing to follow up on the cause of the man’s anemia that was diagnosed as a result of blood tests done in 2011, in preparation for a hernia repair operation that the man required. The Baltimore medical malpractice plaintiffs alleged that had the primary care physician timely and properly followed up in investigating the cause of the man’s anemia, his colon cancer would have been diagnosed much earlier, and at an earlier stage, which would have resulted in a better outcome for the man. As it turned out, the man’s colon cancer was not diagnosed until it had progressed to stage 4.
The Baltimore medical malpractice lawsuit alleged that the man had seen a gastroenterologist in September 2006 for complaints of blood in his stool and irregular bowel movements. The gastroenterologist performed a colonoscopy on the man that reportedly found what was described as moderate external and internal hemorrhoids but found no other abnormalities. As a result, the gastroenterologist recommended that the man have a repeat colonoscopy in eight years.
Then, in 2011, the man saw his primary care physician for a pre-op examination in preparation for his hernia repair surgery. Despite blood testing that indicated anemia, the primary care physician failed to investigate the cause of the man’s anemia, according to the Baltimore medical malpractice plaintiffs.
The man then had a second colonoscopy in 2012. The Baltimore medical malpractice lawsuit alleges that the gastroenterologist who performed the 2012 colonoscopy negligently missed what was alleged to be “obvious colon cancer.” The man’s blood work prior to the 2012 colonoscopy showed that the man was still suffering from anemia.
The man saw his primary care physician again in 2013, complaining of shortness of breath and lethargy. Blood tests taken at that time again showed the man to be suffering from anemia. The primary care physician referred the man to a gastroenterologist for a colonoscopy. A small mass was found during the 2013 colonoscopy that was biopsied and determined to be cancer. Multiple lesions in the man’s liver were discovered during a subsequent CT scan.
The Baltimore medical malpractice lawsuit alleged that had the primary care physician properly investigated the cause of the man’s anemia when it was first reported, the source of the internal bleeding in the man’s intestine would have been discovered, leading to an earlier diagnosis of colon cancer that was causing the bleeding. Earlier diagnosis and treatment usually results in a better outcome for cancer patients.
The Baltimore medical malpractice lawsuit had originally named additional medical malpractice defendants, but the other medical malpractice defendants had settled with the plaintiffs before trial.
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