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Patient's family settles colon cancer misdiagnosis claim

Mistakes involve a wrong decision or the lack of a decision. Some errors can be corrected in a timely manner but, when the problem is delayed or ignored, damage can spread unchecked. In Boston medical care, delayed treatment can create enough time for an aggressive disease like cancer to become unstoppable.

The family of a widely-respected Midwestern lawyer recently accepted a $150,000 medical malpractice settlement. A lawsuit, initiated by the attorney weeks before his 2011 death, accused a university doctors' group of inaction that led to a missed diagnosis of cancer.

The law professor reported symptoms of mental distraction and abdominal pain at a University of Iowa hospital in early 2010. The patient was sent home, after doctors concluded a painkiller prescribed after an earlier fall was responsible for bowel problems.

Six years earlier, the attorney had a benign polyp removed during a colonoscopy. At the time, doctors ordered another colonoscopy in five years to monitor the bowel condition. The physicians apparently never rescheduled the procedure in 2009, as initially recommended, despite several patient requests to do so.

The two visits to the hospital in 2010 eventually confirmed a colon cancer diagnosis. The professor filed a complaint against the state university hospital in 2011, but died at age 75 before the case could be resolved. The attorney's estate refiled the suit in February 2012 and recently settled out of court, days before the litigants' expert witnesses were set to testify at the trial.

Acceptance of the settlement allowed the hospital and doctors to avoid an admission of negligence. The defendants never had to face charges that they might have saved the law professor's life with early cancer treatment by following through with the second colonoscopy.

Compensation, through a settlement or judgment, is a substitute for what cannot otherwise be recovered through a malpractice lawsuit - a patient's health or a family's loss of a loved one.

Source: The Associated Press, "University of Iowa doctors' group settles in law prof's death" No author given, Jan. 21, 2014

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