Was additional testing for rectal cancer required?
<court>Middlesex County (Mass) Superior Court</court>
In a 65-year-old woman undergoing a routine gynecologic examination, a stool guaiac test was positive for blood. (A stool guaiac shows blood somewhere in the gastrointestinal track—be it in the esophagus, stomach, small or large bowel, or rectum.) Her physician attributed this to hemorrhoids and ordered no further tests.
Nine months later, the patient was diagnosed with stage III rectal cancer that required chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.
In suing, the woman claimed that the standard of care mandated the performance of further studies to evaluate a positive stool guaiac. She alleged that because this was not performed, her diagnosis was delayed and her chance of survival impaired.
The Ob/Gyn argued that a follow-up study was not required in patients undergoing regular stool guaiac exams, and maintained that an earlier diagnosis would not have altered her chance for survival. In addition, she noted that at the time of trial the plaintiff had been cancerfree for more than 4 years.
- The jury returned a defense verdict.
The cases presented here were compiled by Lewis L. Laska, editor of Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts (www.verdictslaska.com). While there are instances when the available information is incomplete, these cases represent the types of clinical situations that typically result in litigation.