Medical Malpractice - Failure to Diagnose Skin Cancer on Cheek
This medical malpractice case arose from the failure of a doctor to diagnose skin cancer on the plaintiff’s face.
Plaintiff was 72 years old in August of 1997 when he was referred by his internist to the defendant doctor for evaluation of possible cancer on his left cheek. Defendant’s differential diagnosis was “lentigo maligna vs. seborrheic keratosis.” A biopsy was performed by defendant. The biopsy was positive for cancer, but plaintiff was informed about a month after his initial visit that the spot on his left cheek was benign, that he did not have cancer, and that it did not need removal. As a result, plaintiff did not follow up with defendant.
Over the next two and a half years, the “benign” spot on the plaintiff’s left cheek grew in size. Finally, in January 2000, plaintiff was referred to a new dermatologist for further evaluation of the now significantly larger growth on his left cheek, which had grown and extended to under the left eyelid. The new doctor diagnosed plaintiff with cancer known as lentigo maligna and determined that he needed to undergo surgery. Plaintiff had three major surgeries, resulting in severe facial scarring and disfigurement, as well as dysfunction.
If defendant had correctly diagnosed plaintiff’s skin cancer, the malignancy could have been removed in a simple procedure. The evidence was overwhelming that at the time the cancer should have been diagnosed, definitive treatment would have involved a small incision without the need for any major reconstruction, chemotherapy or radiation treatment. Due to the delay, the required surgery had to be performed in a three stage series which involved months of disability, significant permanent disfigurement and equally significant mental distress.
As is often the case, the responsible doctor tried to blame the patient for the physicians own mistake. Defendant claimed that he informed plaintiff to follow up clinically after the biopsy and that plaintiff failed to do so. Although the doctor attempted to blame the patient for his error, there was no evidence to prove his claim, and the case ultimately settled.
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