Articles Posted in Failure to Diagnose Cancer

“To know that this happens is our country, that’s unacceptable.” 

-Sue Sheridan, patient safety advocate, in To Err Is Human

The medical malpractice attorneys of Levin & Perconti recently watched To Err Is Human, a newly released documentary showing the frequency and impact of medical errors upon American families. To see the facts relating to the frequency and severity of medical errors combined with the heart wrenching story of a family forever changed by these mistakes has left a lasting impression on all of us.

veteran health care

Medical Mistake Leads to Terminal Cancer Diagnosis for Green Beret

The story of Sgt. 1st Class Rich Stayskal, as published on January 14, 2019 in Stars and Stripes, an independent news source to the U.S. military community, is tough to get through. Stayskal is a former Marine who later became a Green Beret but is now battling a terminal stage IV metastatic lung cancer. The husband and father of two says his military doctors missed a diagnosis opportunity that could have saved his life in 2017 when he first presented symptoms and a scan showed the illness.

But unlike similar malpractice claims patients can bring against the private medical community, Stayskal can’t do much because of a military rule known as the Feres doctrine. Feres prohibits military servicemembers from suing the government and is a rule that can only be changed via an act of Congress or a ruling by the Supreme Court. The rule, which has been upheld for more than 68 years, was meant to maintain a “no-fault” compensation system in the military where combat-related deaths and injuries are possible.

The Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit group dedicated to hospital safety, has released their biannual Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade report, showing an overall improvement in Illinois hospitals since the spring. According to Leapfrog, the survey measures hospital patient safety by the number of “errors, injuries, accidents, and infections.” Participation by hospitals is optional and this fall, 110 Illinois hospitals agreed to take part. According to the data collected, Leapfrog rated Illinois hospitals as #13 overall, an improvement from #15 this past spring.

In a time where the increasing problem of medical errors is finally being given the platform it deserves, the survey is more relevant now than ever. The Leapfrog Group, citing an often quoted 2016 Johns Hopkins study, notes that medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the United States. Patient safety and healthcare provider accountability is essential for all hospitals and healthcare organizations. Below is our analysis of the Fall 2018 Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade report for participating Illinois hospitals.


Illinois & Metro Chicago Hospital Results

The Center for Justice and Democracy (CJ&D), a consumer rights group out of New York Law School, has shared their list of 22 famous figures who have been harmed and even killed by medical malpractice.

Most of us are familiar with the high profile drug-related tragedies of Michael Jackson (2009) and Prince (2016) and even Judy Garland (1969) and Marilyn Monroe (1962). Some of us are familiar with the details surrounding the death of comedian Joan Rivers in 2014 during an endoscopy at a New York City clinic.  But it was surprising even to us to read the details of medical neglect in cases involving other beloved celebrities. As CJ&D pointed out in their report, no one is exempt from medical negligence or malpractice, not even celebrities with all the money and resources in the world at their fingertips. The report also shared several findings that now have become well known to the public. Among them, that medical errors are the 3rd leading cause of death in this country.

Each of the 22 cases highlighted in the report has resulted in a settlement or verdict (or is pending) and in many of them, grieving loved ones or the victims themselves have said that it’s not about money, but instead about enforcing a sense of right vs. wrong in the face of injustice.

A recent study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings reveals that 54% of American physicians report feeling burnt out at work. Lead study author, Stanford pediatric physician Daniel S. Tawfik, and his team found that those experiencing burnout were TWO times as likely to have made a major medical error in the last 3 months. Study authors also believe that based on this information, 1/3 of all American physicians are experiencing burnout at any given time.  Researchers describe burnout as “emotional exhaustion or cynicism.”

The study questioned 6,586 physicians in active practice at an American hospital or clinic and asked them to report feelings of burnout, excessive fatigue, recent suicidal thoughts, their thoughts on patient safety on the unit in which they primarily work, as well as those who had made a major medical error. The authors found:

  • 54.3%  of physicians admitted feeling burnt out

When a patient hears the word cancer they automatically think the worst. Yet early diagnosis and treatment can slow or stop cancer and keep it in remission. We trust that our doctor will always provide us with the best treatment options for the various stages of the disease. Unfortunately, that was not the case for one Cook County man. A lawsuit was recently filed against an oncology doctor alleging negligence in the prostate cancer death of the man. The lawsuit alleges that the doctor did not properly treat the man’s cancer and this ultimately led to his death. The lawsuit seeks more than $50,000 in damages.

Negligent Treatment
According to information in the lawsuit, the man was diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer which went into remission in 2010. His doctor then decided to discontinue treatment and monitor the PSA levels (prostate-specific antigen) of the man. In 2013 the cancer returned but the doctor did not continue the shots which had previously been successful in treating the cancer. Additionally, the doctor canceled an appointment with the man during which he allegedly took a vacation for a month out of the country. The cancer ultimately spread and the man suffered a fatal stroke in 2014.
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A woman has filed a lawsuit claiming a Chicago dermatologist failed to diagnose her skin cancer in a timely manner. The woman filed the lawsuit against the doctor and Northwestern Hospital, Northwestern Medical Group, and Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation. The lawsuit states that the woman went to the doctor because of a skin abnormality and was treated between August 2010 and May 2013. According to the complaint the doctor failed to do a biopsy of the area and therefore did not provide the proper course of treatment. The suit seeks more than $50,000 in damages.

Skin Cancer is Dangerous
According to the CDC, melanoma is the most common form of skin cancer and it can be deadly. More than 9,000 people each year die from melanoma in the United States. If promptly diagnosed, skin cancer can be treated and can often be removed before it causes damage or spreads. In this case, the woman’s skin cancer went undiagnosed for nearly three years. Had it been correctly diagnosed when she first visited the doctor it would have been in the early stages. Treatment is most successful when cancer is discovered early. The doctor in this case was negligent in the failure to order testing that would have diagnosed cancer.
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A man has filed a lawsuit in Cook County against a Rolling Meadows cancer center for medical malpractice after his wife died of breast cancer. The lawsuit names Northwest Oncology and Hematology and the treating doctor alleging that they were careless and negligent in the medical treatment of his wife. According to the lawsuit, the doctor failed to monitor and test the woman, whose cancer was thought to be in remission. Instead, the woman’s cancer had indeed returned and she died in 2013. When a doctor or medical professional fails to properly diagnose or treat a patient it may be considered malpractice.
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Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. The World Health Organization stresses that early detection of cancer greatly increases the chances of successful treatment. An important part of early detection is proper screening, which is use of tests to identify individuals who have a disease. However, when a patient undergoes screening, such as a radiological procedure, and a medical professional misreads the test, the outcome can be catastrophic.

Importance of Proper Radiological Care

Radiological procedures help physicians get a better look at what is happening inside a patient’s body. These procedures reveal conditions such as tumors, broken bones and internal bleeding. Doctors rely on the results of these tests in making a diagnosis. In order to save peoples’ lives, the tests must be read properly to deliver a correct diagnosis that will lead to proper treatment. When they are not and a patient suffers injury, a delayed diagnosis or treatment, or a worsening in their condition, they may be able to file a medical malpractice suit to hold wrongdoers accountable.
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On May 9, 2014 we wrote about the House’s investigation into secret waiting lists that may have lead to the deaths of forty or more veterans. Now the Chicago Tribune reports that federal auditors have visited the Edward Hines Jr. Veterans Affairs Hospital due to allegations that similar secret waiting lists were also used there. The Hines facility is in Maywood, a suburb of Chicago.

The Tribune reports that a social worker has alleged that veterans seeking care at Hines were placed on secret waiting lists, rather than the official waiting lists. This was allegedly done so executives could collect bonuses that are supposed to be reserved for executives who provide speedy care despite an ever increasing demand on veteran’s hospitals.

The president of the American Federation of Government Employees VA Local 781, Germaine Clarno, told Tribune reporters that he has actually seen the waiting lists and that multiple hospital employees have told him about them. Meanwhile, the director of the facility claims she has “received no evidence or specific facts about data manipulation.”

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