Tuesday, May 8, 2007

$3.1M for cancer mistake: Jury awards damages to woman who sued doctors after wrong diagnosis

A woman with incurable breast cancer has won a $3.1 million malpractice judgment against two doctors in Plymouth and Duxbury who failed to diagnose the cancer before it spread.

A Brockton jury found that Duxbury internist Ulrike Kohler and Plymouth radiologist Justino Fernandes should have done more after Carolyn Ladd of Bourne found a lump in her breast in August 2002.

Doctors did not find Ladd’s cancer until September 2003, when she was 59. By that time it had spread throughout her body and was incurable, her lawyers said.

Ladd will probably die from the disease within five years, her current doctor at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute said in court documents.

The Plymouth Superior Court jury delivered its verdict Thursday after 14 days of trial. The jury awarded Ladd $2.5 million in damages plus $634,520 interest.

Ladd’s lawyers were not available yesterday. The doctors’ attorneys did not return telephone calls.

Ladd also sued former Plymouth radiologist Ira Malter, who allegedly missed early signs of cancer in a mammogram from 2001.

On March 30, two days before the trial began, both sides agreed to dismiss the case against Malta, usually a sign of a settlement. Malta’s lawyer did not return a call yesterday.

Malta did not renew his Massachusetts medical license this year and is now in Pottstown, Pa., according to the Board of Registration in Medicine Web site. Kohler and Fernandes are affiliated with Jordan Hospital in Plymouth. A hospital spokesman declined to comment.

Ladd went to Jordan Hospital to have her annual screening mammogram in August 2001, court papers said. Malta said the test was normal, but an expert for Ladd, radiologist Donald Taylor, said the mammogram showed early signs of cancer that should have prompted more tests.

A year later, after Ladd found a lump in her left breast, Fernandes found her mammogram normal, court documents said. Experts for Ladd said Fernandes not only missed abnormalities but should have ordered another scan because one view of her left breast was unclear.

Fernandes failed to order a biopsy and Kohler, as Ladd’s primary care doctor, also should have sought more tests, Ladd’s experts said. Mammograms alone aren’t enough to rule out cancer after a patient finds a lump, the plaintiff’s experts said.

After Ladd developed a rash under her arms and on other areas of her body a year later, Kohler suggested a biopsy, court documents said.

Kohler did not perform the test until five days later. A Jordan Hospital pathologist found that Ladd had late-stage cancer. Kohler did not notify Ladd for a week, Ladd’s lawyers said.

Ladd probably would have been cured with chemotherapy if doctors had diagnosed her cancer earlier, experts for Ladd said in court documents.

In 2005, when Ladd filed suit, she was ‘‘responding well’’ to two experimental breast cancer drugs at Dana-Farber, a court filing said. However, her doctor there estimated she would survive two to five years, and court officials put her suit on a fast track.

source : www.patriotledger.com

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