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Medical Verdicts


Misread Pap smear leads to undetected cervical cancer

June 2003 · Vol. 15, No. 6

<court>Hartford County (Conn) Superior Court</court>

The plaintiff, a 35-year-old woman, presented to her gynecologist for an annual exam. The Pap smear was normal, but the gynecologist described her cervix as “friable.”

The following year, a biopsy revealed cervical cancer. She underwent a hysterectomy followed by radiation and chemotherapy.

In suing, the woman argued that the lab misread her Pap smear, causing her cancer to go undetected for an additional year. Further, she claimed that the doctor should have performed further testing when he noted that her cervix was friable. She contended that this first use of the term indicated a clinical change in her cervix from previous examinations.

The doctor argued that the term “friable” was synonymous with other terms he had used in earlier exams.

  • The jury awarded the plaintiff $3.7 million, with 80% of negligence assigned to the laboratory and 20% to the doctor.

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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