On March 11, 2014, a Worchester, Massachusetts medical malpractice jury found in favor of the estate of a man who was told in 2003 that he had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after which he twice underwent chemotherapy and later had a stem cell transplant.
The medical malpractice jury’s verdict was in the amount of $1,952,000, which included $312,000 for lost wages and lost earning capacity and $1,640,000 for the man’s conscious pain and suffering, loss of companionship, impairment of bodily function, disfigurement, and other noneconomic damages. It was later determined, the man never had cancer and he never needed the painful and risky cancer treatments.
After the erroneous cancer diagnosis, the man had chemotherapy after which he was advised that his cancer was in remission. He was subsequently advised that his cancer had returned and he underwent a second round of chemotherapy. Then, in 2006, the man had a stem cell transplant to treat his cancer.
Weeks after the stem cell transplant procedure, the man was told that he never had cancer but rather had an immunodeficiency disorder that was misdiagnosed as cancer.
The former carpenter died in 2013, allegedly as a result of his unnecessary cancer treatments. The defendant doctor, who was chief of hematology/oncology for his medical group, denied that he was negligent in his treatment of the man or that his care was a cause of his patient’s death, blaming the cancer misdiagnosis on a pathology report. A second named defendant physician was found by the jury to have not been medically negligent.
After the medical malpractice jury rendered its verdict in favor of the man’s estate, the lawyer for the estate lamented that the man “suffered all kinds of complications as a result of all the cancer treatment” and that “this is a tragic case of a man whose quality of life and life expectancy were shortened due to medical errors. We are pleased that the jury has sent the message to the medical community that they have an obligation of continuing care.” The medical malpractice defendant and his attorney refused to comment after the verdict was rendered.
What Is Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma?
According to the American Cancer Society, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a cancer that starts in cells called lymphocytes, which are part of the body’s immune system. Lymphocytes are in the lymph nodes and other lymphoid tissues (such as the spleen and bone marrow). The lymphatic system is composed mainly of lymphoid tissue, lymph vessels, and a clear fluid called lymph.
Lymphoid tissue is made up of several types of immune system cells that help the body fight infections. Most of the cells in lymphoid tissue are lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. The two main types of lymphocytes are B lymphocytes (B cells) and T lymphocytes (T cells), which do different jobs within the immune system. Both types of lymphocytes can develop into lymphoma cells, but B-cell lymphomas are much more common in the United States than T-cell lymphomas (about 85% of non-Hodgkin lymphomas in the United States are B-cell lymphomas). Different types of lymphoma can develop from each type of lymphocyte, based on how mature the cells are when they become cancerous and other factors. Treatment for each lymphoma depends on which type it is, so determining the exact type of lymphoma is important.
About 1 in 3 of non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas in the United States are diffuse large B-cell lymphomas. About 1 in 3 of diffuse large B-cell lymphomas is localized to one part of the body when it is found; lymphomas are easier to treat when they are localized than when they have spread to other parts of the body. Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma is a fast growing lymphoma but often responds well to treatment. Overall, about 3 out of 4 people will have no signs of disease after the initial treatment, and about half of all people with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma are cured with therapy.
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is one of the most common cancers in the United States, accounting for about 4% of all cancers. The American Cancer Society’s most recent estimates for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for 2014 are that about 70,800 people (38,270 males and 32,530 females) will be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which includes both adults and children; about 18,990 people will die from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer (10,470 males and 8,520 females). The average American’s risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma during his or her lifetime in about 1 in 50. Death rates from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma have been decreasing since the late 1990s.
If you have been misdiagnosed with cancer, or your cancer was misdiagnosed, you should promptly seek the legal advice of a medical malpractice attorney in your U.S. state who may investigate your cancer misdiagnosis claim for you and represent you in a cancer misdiagnosis case, if appropriate.
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