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Jury awards nurse and husband after failure to diagnose

A medical malpractice suit filed by a nurse and her husband claimed that a timely diagnosis would have resulted in a much more favorable chance for survival, a sentiment with which a jury recently agreed. According to the suit, her cancer progressed beyond the ability to be treated because of her doctor's failure to diagnose her illness. The out-of-state woman was awarded $6.2 million, while her husband got an award of $700,000.

Doctors in New Jersey and across the rest of the United States must follow an accepted standard of care when faced with certain symptoms or test results. It was her doctor's failure to adhere to that accepted standard that was the focal point of her claim. After undergoing her second mammogram at the age of 39, there were noticeable calcifications that had not appeared on her first mammogram at age 35. When her doctor reviewed the results, he determined that the calcifications were benign and that no further testing was necessary.

Had she received any type of additional testing, experts believe that she would have been diagnosed with cancer in a timelier manner that would have placed her chances of survival at 85 to 100 percent. Instead, her cancer progressed for an additional two years before she received the correct diagnosis. Despite beginning treatment, it is currently believed that her stage three cancer is terminal.

Multiple medical experts testified at the trial, a common feature of most medical malpractice suits as the input of a neutral third-party is helpful for establishing a baseline of appropriate provider behavior and responses. That testimony might have played a role in the jury's decision to award the victim with millions of dollars in damages. The additional compensation for her husband was awarded for his own damages related to his wife's injuries, including loss of consortium and the damage inflicted upon his marriage. This case is an excellent example of how a doctor's failure to diagnose an illness cannot only negatively impact a New Jersey patient, but also his or her family.

Source:, "Nurse, husband awarded nearly $7M in malpractice suit", Christina Elmore, Jan. 23, 2016

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Alan D. Bell
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