Kimiyoshi Matsuyama went to his doctor’s office for a routine physical examination. Medical records of the visit indicate that Mr. Matsuyama complained of heartburn and difficulty breathing that was associated with eating and lifting. Mr. Matsuyama’s doctor, Dr. Birnbaum, did not order any tests to determine the origin or cause of his patients complaints. At a subsequent trial, Dr. Birnbaum testified that he was aware that Mr. Matsuyama had a history of smoking and was at significantly higher risk for developing gastric cancer than was the general population of the United States. Instead, the doctor diagnosed his patient with gastrointestinal reflex disease and recommended over the counter treatments.
Dr. Birnbaum treated Mr. Matsuyama for approximately three more years. Each time that Mr. Matsuyama complained of an ailment or discomfort he was experiencing (such as a suspicious mole), he was told that it was not something to be fearful of. Subsequently, a mass was found in Mr. Matsuyama’s stomach and he was diagnosed with infiltrative gastric adenoid carcinoma. He began treating with specialists for his condition and subsequently passed away due to the gastric cancer.
The Estate of Mr. Matsuyama brought a complaint against the Defendant Doctor alleging wrongful death. The complaint alleged that Dr. Birnbaum breached the applicable standard of care in evaluating and treating Mr. Matsuyama which resulted in his death. An expert retained by the estate opined that, “in light of Matsuyama’s complaints, symptoms, and risk factors, including the presence of H. pylori, his Japanese ancestry, his having lived in Japan or Korea for extended periods, his smoking history, and other well-known risk factors, an internist exercising the expected standard of care would have ordered an upper gastrointestinal series X-ray or an endoscopy, or referred Matsuyama to a specialist for endoscopy, beginning in 1995.” The Estate argued that had the doctor ordered the appropriate testing as early back as 1995, the cancer that Mr. Matsuyama ultimately died of would have been diagnosed and treated in a way where it may have been curable. Continue reading →