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Failure to diagnose cancer at heart of recent lawsuit

When Hawaii residents consider the topic of medical malpractice, the focus is often on the actions taken that brought about direct harm to a patient. While this is the basis of a great many malpractice cases, it is also important to remember that the actions that medical professionals do not take can be just as damaging. One recent case gives a glimpse into what can happen when there is a serious failure to diagnose a deadly illness.

The case centers on a 31-year-old woman who made the decision to donate one of her kidneys to her grandmother. The older woman had been evaluated to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for a transplant, and her granddaughter had been screened to find out if she was a good match for that process. Prior to receiving the transplant in early 2012, the grandmother had been given a CAT scan.

According to the medical malpractice lawsuit, the professionals who were treating the older woman failed to review that scan before sending the women to another city for the transplant surgery. The CAT scan showed signs of cancer, as noted by at least one radiologist. Notes were made on the file, including a statement that the scan results could indicate multiple myeloma or metastatic disease.

The woman was diagnosed with terminal cancer just months after receiving the transplant. She died just before the one-year anniversary of the operation. The lawsuit claims that, because of the failure to diagnose the woman’s cancer, the granddaughter went through a risky and difficult surgical procedure that was unnecessary. Because the cancer was already present and at an advanced state, the older woman was unable to benefit from the transplant. As this case moves forward, families in Hawaii and elsewhere may learn more about the risk of falling victim to this type of medical error.

Source: wacotrib.com, "Granddaughter who donated kidney files malpractice suit", Tommy Witherspoon, Aug. 9, 2014

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