Final Verdict: Colonoscopy Not Negligent
People seek medical procedures because they’re necessary, not because they are fun. Of course, some medical procedures are particularly unpleasant. As individuals age, the need for more invasive procedures (even for purely diagnostic reasons) increases. Colonoscopies are one of the more distasteful diagnostic procedures, but they remain an important part of care for individuals over age 50, or any individuals who have symptoms which could indicate a risk for colon cancer.
Colon cancer is on the rise. In the United States, it is expected that over 100,000 new colon cancer cases will be diagnosed in 2019 alone. Early detection of potential tumors or growths is critical. There are a variety of techniques, including CT colonography (a procedure in which the large intestine is gently inflated with inert gas and examined under CT scan) and colonoscopies. Colonoscopies remain the best way to detect possible cancer in at-risk patients.
However, colonoscopies do carry rare but serious risks. According to VeryWellHealth, pproximately 1 in 285 colonoscopy patients will experience some kind of complication:
Some of the complications that can occur during a colonoscopy include perforation (a hole in the intestine), bleeding, postpolypectomy syndrome, reaction to anesthetic, and infection. The low amount of risk should be reassuring, especially given the importance of this screening test and in its importance in detecting and preventing colorectal cancer.
In 2013, 55-year-old Edward McNair complained of chills, fever, and potential intestinal bleeding. These are not always the result of colorectal cancer, but they can be a possible cancer symptom, so Edward’s gastroenterologist Momodu Jack recommended and performed a diagnostic colonoscopy. Unfortunately, just one to two weeks after the procedure, Edward’s symptoms become complicated by a colovesical fistula, an opening between the large intestine and the bladder. This resulted in a bladder infection and serious additional complications.
To Edward, cause and effect seemed clear. He had gone in for a procedure, and experienced new symptoms afterward. Edward and his attorney concluded that the colonoscopy must have punctured or cut the inside of the colon, leading to the formation of the fistula. Edward sued in DC Superior Court, arguing medical malpractice, surgical error, perforation of the intestine, and resulting complications.
It is common for complications to develop after any surgical procedure. However, this doesn’t always mean that the procedure caused them, or that they were avoidable. Sometimes, the very symptoms which prompt a diagnostic procedure come from an underlying condition which causes further symptoms to develop anyway. However, it’s hard for a patient to shake the feeling that the medical procedure was the cause of any change in symptoms.
During the six-day trial, the gastroenterologist explained that the colonoscopy had been unable to complete due to the presence of diverticula in the intestine. He contended that any changes in symptoms, including the colovesical fistula, were the result of the existing diverticulitis, not any surgical error on his part. Edward claimed that the procedure had been improperly done, with too much manipulation and aggressive movement, and this was the cause of the fistula. However, he wasn’t able to prove it. As a result, the jury returned a verdict of no malpractice after three hours of deliberation. Call for an evaluation from an attorney like Cohen & Cohen if you have questions about a medical malpractice case.