Jury awards $5.36 million for doctor’s negligent care

Posted on behalf of Stewart Bell, PLLC on Jun 28, 2012 in Doctor Errors

There are many things medical researchers have not yet discovered about human biology or the causes of various medical conditions. It is known, however, that some patients are at an increased risk of developing certain types of medical conditions due to factors such as age, heredity or lifestyle choices. And this, in turn, has led the medical community to develop screening guidelines for patients in at-risk categories.

In practical terms, this means that doctors in West Virginia have a duty to test for high risk conditions in appropriate circumstances (e.g., conducting an annual prostate exam for male patients over the age of 40) -- and especially when a patient complains of symptoms linked to a condition they're known to be at an increased risk of developing. To give you a hypothetical example, a doctor would risk a medical malpractice lawsuit if he or she failed to order a chest x-ray for a long-term smoker who complained of a persistent cough.

For a real life example, let's take a brief look at a recent medical malpractice case in which a District of Columbia jury awarded $5.36 million to the family of a man who died from colon cancer in 2011.

At trial, attorneys for the family argued that the man's doctor had failed to properly screen him for cancer finding that his doctor failed to perform the full scope of recommended screening tests from 1992 to 2008, even though the man had complained of symptoms such as rectal bleeding that are consistent with colon cancer during that time and was at greater risk of developing colon cancer due to his age.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs also documented the man's painful experience with chemotherapy treatments in the years following his 2008 diagnosis that included videotaped testimony from the victim himself.

The physician's legal team has already announced its intention to appeal the jury's medical malpractice verdict, in part because of an allegedly inflammatory remark made during the plaintiff's closing argument to the jury, which the defense objected to and the judge sustained.

Source: Legal Times, "D.C. Jury Awards $5M for Failure to Screen for Cancer," Zoe Tillman, June 25, 2012

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