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Delayed diagnosis of stomach cancer led to death — $900,000 settlement

Type of action: Medical malpractice, wrongful death

Injuries alleged: Death resulting from delayed diagnosis

Verdict or settlement: Settlement

Amount: $900,000

William E. Artz

William E. Artz

Attorneys for plaintiff: William E. Artz and Thomas M. Wochok, Tysons Corner

Description of case: The decedent began experiencing stomach problems in May 2015. He had complaints of bloating, slow digestion, early satiety with abdominal discomfort and increased gas. He underwent several upper endoscopies and colonoscopies from May 2015 through April 2016. All of the pathology was reported as being essentially benign; cancer free. Additionally, the decedent underwent a number of imaging studies, none of which recognized or reported a cancerous process in his stomach.

Thomas M. Wochok

Thomas M. Wochok

The decedent sought medical care at a larger facility in July 2016. A colonoscopy performed revealed a benign-appearing, intrinsic severe stenosis measuring of unknown length x 3 mm at the hepatic flexure. Biopsies of the stricture revealed poorly differentiated adenocarcinoma with signet ring cell features. There was no surface dysplasia in the biopsy, raising the possibility of a metastasis. On July 19, 2016, an upper endoscopy was performed and a large, infiltrative, circumferential mass with ulceration was found in the gastric antrum. The pathology revealed a poorly differentiated carcinoma. Ascitic fluid was removed and identified as metastatic adenocarcinoma with signet ring features. The decedent was diagnosed with Stage IV stomach cancer. He passed away in July 2017.

A 2015 abdominal/pelvic CT was reviewed by an outside radiologist who would have reported this as an abnormal study with findings characteristic of gastric cancer. It had been reported as a normal exam with no explanation for the patient’s symptoms. The reviewing radiologist believed at that time the cancer was confined to the stomach. Hence, the cancer was treatable.

The pathology slides were reviewed by a gastroenterology pathologist, and he found a focus of cancer on an October 2015 upper GI specimen which was initially read as normal. We later obtained the gallbladder pathology slide dated in February 2016 and an expert pathology review revealed that it too showed cancer despite being read as normal by a pathologist.

Suit was initiated alleging wrongful death against a radiologist and two pathologists claiming failure to report cancer resulting in a delayed diagnosis leading to death. The matter was negotiated and settlement was reached with all defendants involved.

Thomas M. Wochok, counsel for plaintiff, provided case information.