Settlements reached in Chicago chef’s cancer misdiagnosis case

Chicago residents who have been diagnosed with cancer know how important it is to diagnose the disease while it is still in its early stages so that an individual has a better chance of beating cancer with radiation, chemotherapy or other treatments. Individuals can certainly take steps to ensure that they remain cancer-free by checking for lumps and going in to the doctor’s office for regular screenings. But Illinois doctors and other medical professionals must also do their part not to overlook any warning signs that could indicate that a patient has cancer.

A misdiagnosis of cancer is an especially dangerous mistake that doctors are capable of making if they ignore a patient’s symptoms or if they fail to thoroughly investigate what could be causing their patient to experience abnormal health problems. Failing to diagnose cancer prevents a patient from receiving life-saving treatment he or she may need before the disease progresses and becomes fatal.

In 2005, a famous chef visited a dentist in the Chicago area because he noticed that he had a lesion on his tongue and it was causing him to experience pain. Despite the man’s pain, a biopsy was not ordered by the dentist. Two years later, the chef was diagnosed with stage 4 tongue cancer.

Medical malpractice lawsuits were filed against the dentist and another Chicago dentist who both failed to diagnose the man’s cancer before it had spread to his neck. The lawsuit, which was filed in 2008 in Cook County Circuit Court, argued that the dentists were negligent because they had failed to order biopsies when treating the patient. Had the biopsies been performed, the results would have indicated that the man had tongue cancer. Instead, the disease went undiagnosed for nearly two years and spread to other parts of his body.

Despite the grim stage 4 diagnosis in 2007, the chef’s cancer is now in remission after undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Although one of the lawsuits was set to go to trial, it was reported earlier this month that the lawsuits filed against both of the dentists have been dropped by the chef. One lawsuit was dropped after the chef reached a settlement with one of the dentists. The second lawsuit was dropped after the other dentist admitted a certain level of liability in misdiagnosing the man’s tongue cancer.

Source: Crain’s Chicago Business, “Grant Achatz drops malpractice suits after four-year battle,” Lorene Yue, Mar. 22, 2012