In one of the largest medical malpractice jury verdicts in Nevada during 2009, a young mother who had been complaining to her doctor for seven months that she had blood in her stools and abdominal pain beginning in 2004, died a painful death from colon and rectal cancer because her doctor misdiagnosed her condition as bleeding from hemorrhoids. If her doctor had timely and correctly diagnosed her cancer when he should have, with proper treatment she would have been expected to have a 97% survival rate.
Because her doctor failed in his responsibilities to his patient, her survival rate dropped to 50%. The late diagnosis resulted in her having to have major surgeries to remove her uterus and parts of her lower intestines. She also underwent aggressive chemotherapy but all efforts were futile; she died in 2007, leaving behind her husband and 5-year-old daughter.
The jury listened to all of the trial testimony and considered all of the evidence produced during the medical malpractice trial before returning a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs in the amount of $2.5 million.
The misdiagnosis of cancer or the late diagnosis of cancer continue to be a substantial basis for medical malpractice claims brought against negligent health care providers throughout the United States. Because many aggressive types of cancer can result in severe debilitation or death relatively quickly, it is important that signs and symptoms of cancer be thoroughly investigated and diagnosed to provide the patient with the greatest opportunity to survive the longest period of time and with the best quality of life.
Many cancers are highly treatable or curable if timely and properly diagnosed. If a symptom could be a sign of cancer, it should be aggressively investigated because the misdiagnosis of cancer or the failed diagnosis of cancer can be devastating to the cancer patient and his/her family.
In the Nevada case, the existence of the woman’s hemorrhoids may have misled her doctor to assume that her rectal bleeding was due to that relatively benign condition as opposed to being a sign or symptom of colon or rectal cancer. Simple and prompt medical testing (such as a colonoscopy) to investigate for the source and reason for the rectal bleeding should have been done, including a biopsy of any suspicious area, if appropriate — better safe than sorry.
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