Doctor prescribed ‘waiting’ as liver cancer grew worse, suit says

Doctors don’t always push for aggressive treatment when a patient shows signs of a troubling illness. That can be the appropriate strategy in some cases, but in others the doctor may be underestimating the severity of the disease or how quickly it is developing. The result can be very serious if the negligent care is not correctly quickly.

The husband of a woman who died of liver cancer in 2012 says that her oncologist negligently failed to take the presence of a lesion on her liver seriously enough. He has sued the doctor and his hospital for medical malpractice and wrongful death on her behalf.

The woman was diagnosed with a blood disorder as a child that required regular monitoring. Testing in 2005 revealed a lesion on her liver and inflamed lymph nodes. A CT scan in 2007 led her doctor to refer her to the defendant, who twice ordered PET/CT imaging of the patient’s body.

After examining the results of those tests, the doctor did not recommend any treatments. He said that they would do “watchful waiting,” presumably to see if the symptoms grew worse, until “sometime next year.” But the doctor never followed up with another PET/CT as he promised.

Nearly three years passed with no further testing or treatment recommended by the defendant. At that point, the woman went to the Mayo Clinic, where doctors discovered that the lesion had become “grossly enlarged” and malignant, soon spreading cancer to other organs.

The woman began chemotherapy, but soon went into hospice care. She died in June 2012.

Her widower says that the defendant might have saved her life if he had acted within acceptable standards of care. He is seeking unknown damages.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “UPMC, cancer doctor named in lawsuit for alleged malpractice,” Gavan Gideon, Aug. 6, 2013

Wrongful Death


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