On January 15, 2016, a Florida basketball icon died from advanced oral cancer that his widow alleges in her Florida medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit, which was filed on February 15, 2016, was avoidable had a Quest Diagnostics pathologist properly read a biopsy slide in 2011 that an independent review in 2014 showed had cancer cells, indicating that the basketball star’s oral cancer had returned.
Rex Morgan played in the NBA for the Boston Celtics for two years after being picked in the second round of the NBA draft. After retiring from the NBA, he returned to Jacksonville, Florida to coach at the high school level, where his overall record was 477 wins and 83 losses. Prior to his NBA career, Rex Morgan played for Jacksonville University between 1968 and 1970, helping the team to reach the 1970 national championship game (Jacksonville University lost to UCLA).
Mr. Morgan was diagnosed with tonsil cancer in 2010 and underwent successful radiation treatment. As part of his ongoing cancer monitoring, a biopsy of his tongue was undertaken in November 2011, which was sent to Quest Diagnostics for evaluation. A Quest Diagnostics pathologist read the tongue biopsy slide as showing no signs of cancer, according to his widow’s medical malpractice lawsuit.
Two years later, Mr. Morgan was diagnosed with advanced oral cancer based on a second biopsy. In light of that diagnosis, Mr. Morgan asked for an independent pathologist to review the biopsy slides from the 2011 biopsy. The independent pathologist reportedly found that the earlier biopsy slides showed cancerous cells. Based on that independent review and finding, Mr. Morgan’s widow contends in her medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit that had the Quest Diagnostics pathologist made the proper diagnosis of the biopsy slides in 2011, timely and appropriate treatment would have been begun at that time and Mr. Morgan would not have died from advanced oral cancer in January 2016, despite aggressive cancer treatment that began after the results of the second biopsy became known.
At the time Rex Morgan was diagnosed with Stage 3 throat cancer in 2010, which had not reached his lymph nodes at that time, he underwent sixty-six radiation treatments before he was told that his throat cancer had been successfully treated. When his cancer returned to another part of his throat, he had surgery on January 6, 2014, during which one-third of his tongue had to be removed. Following that surgery, Mr. Morgan had brachytherapy three times a day over a five-day period in February 2014, which caused him excruciating pain.
After his second bout with oral cancer that was thought to have been successfully treated at the time, Mr. Morgan stated, “I’m still in pain at times, but not near as much as I was. I want to see my grandchildren grow up. That keeps me going, too.”
Biopsies are an important tool that physicians use to diagnose medical conditions and to tailor medical treatment to specific patient needs. Physicians necessarily rely on the results of biopsies to select treatment options for their patients. Physicians, as well as their patients, rarely personally know the pathologist who reviewed and diagnosed their biopsy slides. If a pathologist “misses” a proper diagnosis when reviewing pathology slides, the pathologist may be held responsible for medical negligence if the pathology error causes harm to the patient. Pathologist malpractice may include the failure to see what is there, misinterpreting what they see, or reporting seeing something that is not there.
If you or a loved one may have been misdiagnosed due to a pathology error and you have suffered harm as a result, you should promptly find a local medical malpractice lawyer in your U.S. state who may investigate your possible medical negligence claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a medical malpractice case against a pathologist, if appropriate.
Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.