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Patient Mistakenly Told He Has Stage III Cancer

cancerA Worcester jury recently returned a verdict for $1.95 million dollars against two doctors practicing out of Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester.  The allegations were as follows: in 2003 the Plaintiff went for a lung biopsy at Saint Vincent Hospital.  The lung biopsy resulted in a determination that the Plaintiff had cancer.  The Plaintiff was concurrently being treated for an immunodeficiency condition, but this information was not relayed from the oncologist to the hematopathologist who ultimately diagnosed the cancer.  After detailing to the Plaintiff-patient that he had Stage III cancer, he was advised to undergo chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant.

The patient received multiple cycles of chemotherapy and ultimately received a bone marrow transplant.  After weeks of this grueling treatment it was discovered that the patient did not have cancer.  His underlying immunodeficiency condition mimicked cancer in the lung.  Had the appropriate health care providers communicated and exercised due diligence in the care and treatment of the Plaintiff, his treatment would have been reduced from chemotherapy to a manageable monthly medication.  Instead he went through the strenuous process of chemotherapy and an unnecessary bone marrow transplant.  The transplant included various complications that ultimately caused the Plaintiff to succumb to a graft versus host disease which resulted in his death.

In awarding the Plaintiff’s estate $1.95 million dollars, the claims were predicated on a medical malpractice cause of action known as lack of informed consent.  Under the theory of lack of informed consent, a patient must consent to treatment even in a life threatening situation.   In order to recover in an informed consent action, the Plaintiff must prove the duty of the physician to disclose the information to the patient. This is further broken down into four components:

(a) a sufficiently close doctor-patient relationship must exist;

(b) the information subject to disclosure must be that which the doctor knows or reasonably should know;

(c) the information must be of such a nature that it is material to the patient’s decision; and

(d) the doctor must fail to disclose the information to the patient.

Once this duty above is shown, the Plaintiff must also prove that the breach of this duty was the cause of the Plaintiff’s injury.  Further, the Plaintiff must establish that the unrevealed risk did in fact come to fruition and that had the Defendant properly divulged the risks to the Plaintiff, he would not have undergone the procedure.  In a situation where an emergency exists, or if the patient’s consent cannot be obtained because he or she is unconscious or otherwise incapable of consenting, the physician should obtain the consent of a family member if time permits.  The Supreme Court has held, “A physician owes to his patient the duty to disclose in a reasonable manner all significant medical information that the physician possess or reasonably should possesses that is material to an intelligent decision by the patient whether to undergo a proposed procedure.”  Harnish v. Children’s Hospital Medical Center

In the above referenced case, the Physicians’ failures to divulge in a reasonable manner, sufficient information to enable the Plaintiff to make an informed judgment constituted lack of informed consent as to the chemotherapy treatments and subsequent bone marrow replacement.  If you believe you have a medical malpractice case, our office can help you. To schedule a free consultation with lawyer Daniel Cappetta, call our office today at (508) 969-9505 or fill out or contact form available on the right side of this page.