A 67 year old woman was scheduled for a left lung resection to remove a lesion near the surface.
The treating surgeon failed to diagnose and treat a larger right lung lesion before addressing this smaller and less invasive left lung lesion.
The negligent general surgeon, who was not a board certified thoracic surgeon, failed to present the client’s case to a tumor board, first, before proceeding with any treatment. This was a violation of the standard of care. He should not have proceeded with his plan to simply do a left lung resection, first, without addressing the right lung and without first considering radiation or chemo as alternative forms of care of a surface lesion. The Plaintiff suggested that had the surgeon submitted this case to a tumor board, before proceeding under his own plan, the board would have recommended different treatment than that which he undertook and the outcome would have been better.
Plaintiff’s oncology and thoracic surgery experts opined that a tumor board likely would have recommended less invasive or nonsurgical treatment on the left lung, such as chemo and radiation. Secondly the board likely would have recommended to instead proceed with a surgical plan on the right lung because there were two deep lesions, versus the one surface lesion in the left lung. A histological study should have been performed to compare the lesions in each lung to determine if they were metastases or if they were different cancers. This was important for determining the proper treatment and longer term prognoses.
In the process of performing the left lung resection, the surgeon was careless and he stapled the pulmonary artery. This resulted in a condition which cut off the blood supply to the left lung and it became necrotic… that is, it died. The surgeon made a decision to take out the lung, without consulting with other specialists and without informed consent from the patient.
After the patient was discharged from the hospital and a rehab center and with only a right lung, after three months flew by during which time the surgeon failed to address or treat the right lung lesion(s), in this interim period of time the right lesion(s) grew and became cancerous. Unfortunately, the client was left with one lung, a cancerous right lung, to fight off this disease because of the pneumonectomy.
After some radiation and chemo, the right lung cancer was treated successfully and it has, for the present, the cancers have substantially been reduced in size.
Prognosis for the patient is uncertain. Before radiation and chemo, plaintiffs experts suggested she had 6-12 months to live due to the failure to timely diagnose and treatment the right lung lesions.
Client has been a smoker for most of her life. Based on this, the defendants were to argue that the patient’s condition was caused by her smoking and that she chose to smoke, all of which led to her cancer. This was not their fault. Further, even if they had timely diagnosed and treated the right sided cancer, the outcome would have been the same. In other words, from a causation point of view, the cancer would have developed regardless of the failure to timely have diagnosed and treated it. Her prognosis would have been no better.
The case settled for $985,000. Plaintiff’s survival was estimated to be 6-12 months post op and pre-radiation/chemo. But given the unexpected success with chemo and radiation, both of which have combined to shrink the tumor in the one remaining lung, prognosis was now uncertain.
A very emotional and troubling case in which clear medical negligence can be discounted because the defense will blame the patient for smoking. Defendant argued that the life expectancy issue would not have been any different even if the right sided lung cancer was promptly diagnosed and treated. Regardless all of these problems were caused by the patient’s life long smoking.
An ethical dilemma remains: In an outrageous cases of medical negligence -where the doctor is careless and staples the pulmonary artery causing the loss of the patient’s better lung- should the defense be allowed to escape fault or medical negligence simply because the cancer may have progressed anyway, even if it was diagnosed earlier?
Medical malpractice claims as this one assist hospitals and staff to target careless or poorly trained surgeons. Without this check and balance provided by the legal system, health care will not improve in the USA.
For any further questions, call Rob Kornfeld for a free consulation (800) 282-4878 or email Rob Rob@Kornfeldlaw.com. Visit us at our web site www.Kornfeldlaw.com . We are happy to meet you at the office or visit you in your home, hospital or wherever if you are not ambulatory.