Failure to Diagnose Lung Cancer

During trial, Jason Rubin settled a medical malpractice case for $1.75 million arising out of the death of a 73 year old man as a result of defendants' failure to diagnose small cell lung cancer. Decedent presented to the emergency room of his local hospital with complaints of fever, chills, shaking and dysuria (painful urination). The hospital's emergency room physician ordered multiple tests, including a chest x ray in order to rule out lung infiltrates. Shortly thereafter, decedent was admitted to the hospital by his urologist.

The chest x ray was interpreted by the hospital's radiologist, who reported that there was a 2.7 cm lesion in the left lung and recommended that a CT scan be performed in order to further investigate the lesion. However, the written report never made it to the patient's chart and neither the emergency room physician nor urologist ever became aware of the chest x ray results. No CT scan was performed and decedent was discharged from the hospital several days later without any knowledge of the lung lesion.

Approximately eight months later, decedent began to experience shortness of breath and sought care from his internist, who performed a chest x ray. This chest x ray showed the lesion in the left lung, but it had increased to approximately 9 cm in size and there was apparent lymph node metastasis. Decedent passed away approximately 15 months later after the cancer metastasized to his brain.

At trial, Jason claimed that the hospital was negligent for not delivering the chest x ray report to the patient's chart and for the emergency room's failure to follow up for the results of the chest x ray that was ordered. Jason further claimed that decedent's urologist knew or should have known that the chest x ray was ordered and therefore should have followed up for the results. Although the type of lung cancer that decedent had- small cell- is often deadly, Jason argued that the eight month delay in diagnosis deprived decedent of a significant opportunity for cure given the relative small size of the lesion when it was first detected on chest x ray.

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