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David Mittleman
David Mittleman
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Kidney Cancer; Doctor Fails to Timely Diagnose, Patient Dies

7 comments

If you've had a reason to visit a doctor lately, chances are you've felt rushed or even ignored by your physician. Studies, both formal and informal, show that Americans are becoming more dissatisfied with their doctors and that the bond of trust that is the basis for the doctor-patient relationship is being eroded. And when patients don't trust their doctors, or when doctors don't listen to their patients, tragedy can result.

That's what happened to a 38-year-old Washington D.C. university professor. For years, he complained to his doctor of various symptoms: weight loss, high blood pressure, a rib fracture. The doctor dealt with each complaint individually but failed to see the big picture. Eventually, at the insistence of the patient's wife, the doctor ordered and MRI, which revealed kidney cancer. The patient died three months later.

Hurried, distracted doctors can put their patients' health in serious jeopardy. Our office is currently investigating a claim in which a patient complained of left-sided flank pain. Her doctor performed a left simple nephrectomy for the purpose of removing her left kidney, which he thought to be the cause of the problem. However, the patient had a congenital abnormality known as a horseshoe kidney, and the doctor removed ALL of the patient's kidney tissue despite having access to a CT scan that showed the patient's horseshoe kidney.

The doctor-patient relationship is the foundation of good patient care. When patients feel like an annoyance rather than an actual human being, important diagnoses can be missed and lives changed forever.

7 Comments

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  1. jc says:
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    If you have ever visited a plaintiff’s attorney lately, chances are that you have felt rushed or even conned by your attorney. Americans have repeatedly tried to pass tort reform in Congress and have been stymied by the American Bar Association.
    Hurried, greedy, incompetent plaintiff attorneys frequently put their clients and defendant doctors thru legal torture because of their slip shod investigation techniques and their stable of fraudulent medical experts.
    Take the case of a 52 y/o male nurse who injured his back and had the first of a two stage back operation. The patient continued to have pain and returned for only a few followup visits. Two years later, the pt learned that he had a misplaced pedicle screw. The lawyer proceeded to sue the neurosurgeon and radiologist who diagnosed the misplaced screw. At deposition, it was learned that the plaintiff’s lawyer sued the wrong radiologist (the radiologist who initially missed the displaced screw was let out because of statute of limitations)and, after the pt got his second stage corrective surgery, (which was unrelated to the misplaced screw) the patient’s pain disappeared. Yet this plaintiff’s attorney continued his litigation for a total of 6 years before the case was thrown out of court 2 weeks before trial.
    A reputable attorney is an officer of the court and should stand for justice. Using the justice system to try and extort money from malpractice insurance carriers is a waste of everyone’s time and can be very harmful to innocent doctors careers.

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    JC i agree in part with you…tell me what do U think the value is of a case where a surgeon admits he was negligent in a procedure that causes an otherwise healthy 31 y/o to require a lifetime of dialysis or multiple kidney transplants and f/u treatment and care?

  3. Cathy Wesley-Ottarson says:
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    My father went to a Doctor with lower back pain and misdiagnosed with High blood pressure. He was treated for HBP. The pain continued for a year and a half until my mother insisted Dad go to another Doctor. It was not until Dad went in for his second surgery to remove his bladder it was discovered he had been hemorrhaging into his Kidney. It was removed weighting 12 lbs. The Doctors saw spots on his liver during the second surgery. He did not make it to his 61st birthday. How different his life would have been if the first Doctor had investigated my father’s complaints with a little more vigor. He may not have had to undergo radiation, chemotherapy with Cisplatin (which did nothing but make him unable to eat), transfusions, stays in the Hospital, and a very painful end of life. Had the Doctor investigated more carefully my Mother would not have been a widow at the age of 58. She may not have had to learn to administer IV drugs, pain medications, how to do a Foley catheter. She would not have had to provide hospice care to her husband of 46 years.

  4. jc says:
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    David: Your question about what an otherwise healthy 31 year old should get is difficult. I generally feel that that individual should get the same compensation that he would get if he lost his kidneys during an industrial accident as determined by the state’s Worker’s Compensation Board.

  5. jc says:
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    David: I have a followup question to my initial narrative re:52 y/o who sued because of the misplaced screw. Should the neurosurgeon or the radiologist who were frivolously sued receive any compensation for their loss of time, reputation, and worry? After all, they were sued for 6 years and were found innocent, yet for the rest of their careers, both docs will have to report this lawsuit whenever they apply for a state medical license or malpractice insurance or hospital medical staff privileges.

  6. jc says:
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    Cathy: The story of your father is tragic and I feel sorry for you and your mom. I do not know the whole story of what went on with your father. I can tell you that if I had a pt that was complaining of continuing pain on subsequent follow up visits, I would immediately go back to the beginning and repeat all the tests or order new tests looking for the diagnosis. If I could not find the cause of the pain (which sometimes happens), I would refer the pt to other specialists to have another look. Tragically, what sometimes happens, is that myself and other docs think we have found the cause of the pain, and we all get on the same page and treat that condition when it could be another, more deadly condition which we overlooked and continues while we are treating what we mistakenly thought was causing the pain. Maybe that is what happened to your Dad and your mom was right in insisting that he see another doctor.

  7. jc says:
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    David: I am still waiting for an answer to my last question regarding the the neurosurgeon and radiologist who were frivolously sued for 6 years and eventually the case was dismissed. Should the neurosurgeon, and the radiologist receive any compensation for being frivolously sued when you consider all the time, money, and worry that they put into this frivolous case? Patients can get delay damages, why can’t doctors get some financial consideration also?