Final Verdict: Ignored Cancer Costs Life
A famous 1965 state Supreme Court decision reads, “The burning candle of life is so precious a light in anyone’s existence that no one has the right to extinguish it before it flickers out into perpetual darkness and oblivion.” The poignant words reflect a real and lasting understanding among human beings that life, in whatever form it takes, is too precious and too valuable to be squandered or laid aside carelessly. If the thoughtlessness or negligence of a medical provider leads to a patient’s untimely death, the provider must be held responsible.
Awarding a monetary judgment against a medical provider for the death of a patient will not bring the patient back to life. While it may ameliorate the grief of the family, it will never replace what was lost. However, it has a greater impact for society. By taking a reckoning for negligent, careless, and reckless behavior, we hold those in positions of authority accountable, urging others to take more care for the life of their fellow person.
In 2005, 79-year-old retiree Carl Palmer went to a lung cancer screening clinic at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center. Carl had smoked cigarettes for most of his life, and accordingly, it was recommended that he receive a CT scan of his chest. He was relieved when no abnormalities or concerns were reported by the radiologist who examined the scan.
However, nearly five years later, Carl was diagnosed with terminal stage-IV lung cancer. Despite aggressive treatment and a two-year fight for his life, Carl ultimately succumbed to cancer in May of 2012, leaving behind a widow and children.
His spouse and children hired attorneys Jonathan Goldberg and James Cardea, suing Greater Baltimore Medical Center and the physicians responsible for Carl’s diagnoses. During the process of discovery, it was shown that the original CT scan in 2005 showed nodular scarring and nodular areas in the right upper lobe of the lung, the region from which small-cell cancer would later spread to take Carl’s life. They sued for medical malpractice, radiology malpractice, misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, failure to treat, delayed treatment, wrongful death, and survival damages.
Although the CT scan clearly showed evidence of cancer, according to the plaintiffs, the radiologist and primary care provider never notified Carl that he was at risk or recommended any follow-up scans. Carl was left alone for years as cancer grew and spread. In 2008, Carl received a chest X-ray that also showed signs of cancer, but no one told Carl to follow up. The plaintiffs argued that his doctor at the time had looked at a summary of the radiology report rather than the actual image, violating the standard of care and leading to a misdiagnosis.
Further, in 2009, Carl underwent yet another imaging study, which showed cancer growing. Still, no one warned him.
The defense tried to argue that there were no violations in the standard of care and owed no duty to Carl. The Baltimore County jury, however, did not buy the argument. They found that one of the doctors clearly breached the standard of care and that this was a cause of Carl’s death. In the end, the jury awarded a total of $461,862 to the plaintiffs. Cohen & Cohen