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Failure to diagnose liver cancer led to man's death

It is possible that nearly everyone in Massachusetts has been impacted by cancer -- either personally or due to the experience of a friend or family member. While serious, many forms of cancer can be treated if caught in time. Unfortunately, the family of one out-of-state man claims that a doctor's failure to diagnose his cancer increased the chances that it would prove fatal.

The details of the case were made known in a medical malpractice lawsuit. As part of the lawsuit, the man's family claimed that he saw his regular care physician for abdominal pain. As a result, the doctor ordered an ultrasound as he suspected there may have been issues with the man's gall bladder. The ultrasound was performed by one of the defendants and interpreted by the second.

Not only did the ultrasound reveal issues with the man's gall bladder, but it also revealed a mass on his liver that one of the defendants diagnosed as cirrhosis. Approximately a year later, the patient was admitted to the hospital due to suspected Lyme disease. At that time, doctors noticed a mass on his heart that was diagnosed as metastatic liver cancer. Although surgery was performed to remove the mass, the man's health continued to decline. He passed away a few months later.

The man's family members claimed that had the mass on his liver been diagnosed a year earlier when it was first noted, he may still be alive today. On the other hand, the defendants argued that the mass was likely already on his heart when the initial tests were conducted and nothing could have prevented his death. A jury recently sided with the family, awarding them $7 million.

An accurate and timely diagnosis is the most important step toward adequate treatment. The failure to diagnose cancer, for example, can delay treatment, increasing the potential harm to a patient. If that failure was a result of negligence, patients in Massachusetts -- or their surviving family members -- have the option of filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. A successfully presented case could provide an injured victim, or the grieving family members of a deceased victim, with some degree of closure while also providing restitution for all documented financial damages.

Source: nj.com, "Family of man who died from cancer awarded $7M in malpractice case", Ben Horowitz, Oct. 29, 2015

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