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Failure to Timely Diagnose Thyroid Cancer

$900,000 – Failure to Timely Diagnose Thyroid Cancer

Facts

A two-year delay in diagnosis of thyroid cancer results in Stage IV malignancy. Unsupervised physician’s assistants improperly scoped her throat, missing the cancer.

Jane Doe, a 55-year-old senior paralegal, complained of escalating symptoms of coughing up blood, fullness in her throat, occasional hoarseness and difficulty breathing over the course of four years. She was diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). A physician’s assistant performed a flexible sigmoidoscopy and found no abnormalities. Physicians suggested she lose weight. Under a medically-supervised weight loss program, Jane Doe lost 75 pounds, but continued to be symptomatic. Her throat was chronically scratchy, irritated and bothersome, and her neck was sensitive to pressure. A second physician’s assistant performed another flexible sigmoidoscopy which was found to be negative.

Jane Doe’s primary care physician was on maternity leave and she was seen by another physician, who referred her to the ENT service. She told Jane Doe to ask to be seen by a physician, not a physician’s assistant. Jane Doe was finally seen by an otolaryngologist who performed and flexible sigmoidoscopy and found a large growth in the throat. A CT scan and needle biopsy confirmed malignancy with spread into the neck, throat and chest. She was diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer.

Allegations/Contentions

Jane Doe alleged that based on the constellation of symptoms, including throat bleeding, fullness of the throat, sore throat and hoarseness, the standard of care required her healthcare providers to rule out a thyroid issue. She also alleges that the physician’s assistants who performed the flexible sigmoidoscopies should have been supervised by a physician or a physician should have performed the procedures. Given the escalating and persistent symptoms, a CT scan and/or ultrasound was required.

She alleges that had proper scope procedures been performed and other diagnostic procedures been done two years prior, they would have revealed early stage I or stage II thyroid cancer, and that most thyroid cancers are diagnosed at an early stage with high curability rates. She alleges that Roe Medical Group and Roe Healthcare are part of an integrated healthcare system and that there was a systemic failure to treat her.

The defendants denied that their care and treatment was below the standard of care, or that they failed to meet accepted standards for adequate medical care.

Injuries

Jane Doe underwent four surgeries in January and February 2010, which left her with hypothyroidism and hypocalcemia. She required two rounds of radioactive iodine therapy and had to remain in isolation for one week. Side effects included burned tongue, stomach pain, nausea, vertigo, loss of taste, swollen salivary glands and premature menopause. Her fatigue greatly interferes with her enjoyment of life. She continues to suffer from hypothyroidism, chronic fatigue and hyper-symptoms of menopause.

Damages

Jane Doe worked as a senior paralegal at a local law firm for approximately 10 years. According to the National Vital Statistics Reports, a woman of plaintiff’s age would have a normal life expectancy of an additional approximate 28 years. Plaintiff’s life will likely be cut substantially short by the delay of her cancer diagnosis.

In addition to income loss, plaintiff claimed the maximum amount of non-economic damages allowed under California law of $250,000. Her husband for almost 34 years sought recovery for loss of consortium. He has had to compensate for his wife’s lack of energy and has taken on much of the household services. He claimed non-economic damages of $250,000.

Special Notes

The case resolved at mediation for $900,000.


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