Imagine finding out that you have prostate cancer. That’s difficult because “cancer” is a word that brings with it fear of pain, fear of the treatment, and fear of death. But maybe, you say to yourself, maybe it is not that bad. Maybe we caught it early and with the right treatment I’ll survive it.
But it gets worse. Imagine then finding out that is too late for that. The cancer has already spread to other areas of your body. A cure is therefore no longer a possibility. The best you can hope for is treatment that will slow down the progress of the disease. And later, after that treatment no longer works, treatment that will lessen the pain from the ever growing cancer.
You probably next ask yourself, “Why me?” “Was it just bad luck?” And then you probably ask “Was there any way this could have been avoided?” “Was there something I could have done differently that would have prevented what now is an incurable outcome?”
And then the news gets even worse. Imagine now finding out that your doctor, the individually you trusted to keep you healthy and to warn you of any possible health problems, had information that you were at risk of having prostate cancer. Imagine finding out that your doctor had this information a year or more before you were told you had cancer. And image finding out that if your doctor had given you this information when it was first available your cancer could have been detected while it was still contained to the prostate gland and could have been cured, could have been eliminated with proper treatment.
Do you think this could not happen? Then consider the following cases:
For a three year period an internist did not tell his patient that blood tests revealed that the patient’s PSA level was not only elevated it was also rising. By the time the doctor finally told his patient about the test results the diagnosis was advanced prostate cancer. The only options available for treatment at that point were radiation therapy and hormone therapy – applied in an attempt to slow the cancer’s growth and spread.
Not only did the doctor in this case not tell his patient his PSA level had been abnormal and rising, the doctor actually told him that they were normal. The patient discovered he had prostate cancer only after he consulted with a urologist at the urging of a family member. The diagnosis – prostate cancer that had spread to the seminal vesicles.
A family doctor who performed a digital examination on his patient found that his prostate gland had a hardened area. The doctor did not tell his patient. The doctor did not refer the patient to a urologist for a consult. The doctor did not order a biopsy to determine whether the hardened area was cancerous. When the patient eventually discovered the cancer it had already metastasized to other parts of his body.
For two and a half years a male patient’s doctor has information that this patient’s PSA levels are elevated. When the patient is finally diagnosed with prostate cancer he attempts surgery in the hopes that the cancer has not spread beyond the prostate and that surgery could eliminate the cancer. He also undergoes months of hormonal therapy. And then post-surgical PSA levels confirm that the surgery did not eliminate the cancer and that it is still present in his body.
Cases like the above happen all too frequently. Whether the doctors do not review the results of the tests, whether they buy into the believe that there is no need to take action the PSA gets to a certain level or a nodule of a certain size is detected in the prostate, or whether they simply do not understand the guidelines and the standard of practice for the action that is appropriate when screening results are abnormal, these doctors cause a delay that results in the growth and spread of the cancer. The result: an avoidable death that becomes unavoidable.
There were law firms that represented the patients and families in each of the four cases discussed above. They reported being able to resolve the cases in amounts that ranged from $400,000 to $1,500,000.
Imagine being the patient who gets that news. You fight the cancer as hard and as long as you can. Imagine being his spouse or life-partner. Imagine being his son or daughter. Imagine being his father or mother. You help him fight the cancer and you offer him all the love and support you can.
Perhaps you also decide to bring a claim for medical malpractice to help protect your family’s future. And you hope that if forced to confront the error and to incur a cost for it, maybe, just maybe, this doctor will change the way he or she treats other patients in the future so that this tragedy will not happen again.