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Medical Verdicts


Unreported abnormal Pap smear blamed in death

April 2003 · Vol. 15, No. 4

<court>St. Louis City (Mo) Circuit Court</court>

During an annual visit in 1998, a 37-year-old woman was found to have a lesion on her cervix. A biopsy confirmed that she had cancer. The physician determined that the tumor was too large for surgery. The patient therefore underwent radiation and chemotherapy, but died 2 years later.

In suing, the woman’s family claimed that a 1994 Pap smear had been improperly read. According to the family, a cytotechnologist had reviewed the Pap smear and reported it as normal, despite the presence of abnormal cells on the slide. Had a pathologist reviewed the Pap smear, they argued, the atypical cells would have been discovered.

The defendant laboratory contended that there were very few abnormal cells on the 1994 slide and that failure to identify them was not negligent.

  • The plaintiff was awarded $4 million.

The cases presented here were compiled by Lewis L. Laska, editor of Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts. While there are instances when the available information is incomplete, these cases represent the types of clinical situations that typically result in litigation.

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