On August 1, 2017, a woman who was misdiagnosed with pancreatic cancer by a hospital pathologist and underwent unnecessary surgery to remove multiple organs due to the misdiagnosis that was concealed from her filed a Kansas medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital, the former chair of the hospital’s pathology department, and a surgeon involved in her “cancer treatment.” The woman’s cancer misdiagnosis and the alleged concealment of her cancer misdiagnosis had been the subject of a whistleblower lawsuit previously filed against the hospital.
The Whistleblower Lawsuit
The whistleblower lawsuit was filed by a pathologist who had worked at the hospital for 25 years, alleging that he had discovered the pancreatic cancer misdiagnosis and that the hospital had failed to inform the patient regarding the cancer misdiagnosis. The whistleblower (“Tilzer”) is a medical doctor who is Board Certified by the American Board of Pathology in the field of Anatomic and Clinical Pathology, and he evaluates human blood, body fluids and tissue samples for patients of the hospital and determines whether the patients suffer from cancer or other illnesses.
The whistleblower alleged in his whistleblower lawsuit, “The Chair of the KUMC/KU Hospital Department of Pathology is not board certified in cytopathology. In 2015 the Department Chair of the KUMC/KU Hospital Department of Pathology reviewed a tissue sample from the essential body organ of a patient. The KUMC/KU Hospital Chair of the Department of Pathology misdiagnosed the patient’s tissue sample as cancerous. As a result of the misdiagnosis by the Department Chair, the patient’s essential body organ was surgically removed. After the patient’s essential body organ was removed, tissue samples from the patient’s essential body organ were examined by other members of the KUMC/KU Hospital Department of Pathology. The post-surgery examination of the patient’s essential body organ established that the patient’s essential body organ was essentially normal and was not cancerous. After the post-surgery examination determined that the patient’s essential body organ was not cancerous, the pre-surgery tissue sample was re-examined. The post-surgery re-examination of the pre-surgery tissue sample established that the pre-surgery sample was not cancerous, and that the pre-surgery tissue sample had been misdiagnosed by the Chair of the KUMC/KU Hospital Department of Pathology. The removed essential body organ, in fact, was normal, and should not have been removed. The Chair of the KUMC/KU Hospital Department of Pathology examined the patient’s tissue samples after she was informed of her misdiagnosis. The Department Chair did not recognize the difference between acinar cell and islet cells, and covered up her misdiagnosis by placing an addendum to her original report stating the original cancer diagnosis and the normal removed organ matched, thereby concealing her original misdiagnosis and perpetuating the patient’s mistaken belief that the patient’s removed organ was cancerous.”
“The Chief Medical Officer stated that the Chair’s original diagnosis was correct because two other pathologists signed the report; but the two other pathologists did not agree with the original diagnosis, and the Chair simply wrote their names in the electronic medical record. The Chief Medical Officer refused Tilzer’s requests to talk to any other pathologist. The Chief Medical Officer’s failure to interview other pathologists perpetuated the cover up of the misdiagnosis by the Hospital. Despite Tilzer’s request, and in violation of KU Hospital’s policies, a Root Cause Analysis was not conducted.”
“In early 2016 the Chair of the Pathology Department instructed others to alter medical records regarding the Chair’s misdiagnosis, and to remove from the records any reference that a Root Cause Analysis was necessary. The patient was not informed of the misdiagnosis as of February 2016, and to the best of Tilzer’s knowledge the patient still has not been informed that the patient did not have cancer, and that it was unnecessary to remove the patient’s essential body organ … The form of cancer that was erroneously diagnosed within the patient is commonly known to be potentially lethal; and the patient who was misdiagnosed has lived with this unwarranted fear for as long as KUMC/KU Hospital have concealed the misdiagnosis.”
“When Tilzer learned of the misdiagnosis and the Respondents’ failure to inform the patient, Tilzer complained to administrative authorities at KUMC and KU Hospital, and urged the physicians and administrators to rectify the errors by correcting the patient’s medical errors and informing the patient. KUMC’s and KU Hospital’s administrators resisted Tilzer’s efforts to thoroughly investigate the matter and conduct a review known as a “Root Cause Analysis”; and KUMC and KU Hospital and did not take corrective action. After KUMC and KU Hospital failed to investigate and take corrective action, Tilzer submitted a report to the Joint Commission, an outside auditing agency. As a result of Tilzer’s submission of the report and his persistent requests that the records be corrected and the patient informed, Tilzer has been retaliated against and his job has been threatened in violation of K.S.A. § 75-2973.”
After CMS began investigating the whistleblower’s allegations in July 2016, the whistleblower withdrew his lawsuit in August 2016, explaining that his whistleblower lawsuit was “[not] necessary to protect him from retaliation at this time.”
The Kansas medical malpractice plaintiff alleges that she first became aware of her pancreatic cancer misdiagnosis when she was asked to sign an affidavit that included a statement that the medical care she received “was wonderful.” She became suspicious and then searched online, where she discovered an article about Tilzer’s whistleblower lawsuit.
In response to the plaintiff’s cancer misdiagnosis lawsuit, a spokesperson for the hospital system stated, ” … we do believe that our physicians and staff acted appropriately and with the best interests of our patient in mind.”
If you were misdiagnosed with cancer in Kansas or in another U.S. state, you should promptly consult with a Kansas medical malpractice attorney, or a medical malpractice attorney in your state, who may investigate your cancer misdiagnosis claim for you and represent you in a cancer malpractice case, if appropriate.
Visit our website or call us toll-free in the United States at 800-295-3959 to be connected with cancer malpractice lawyers in your state who may assist you.
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