Pennsylvania veteran suffered because of failure to detect cancer

There are a number of prescription drugs and medical treatments that can ease one’s pain and suffering even when faced with a terminal disease. A doctor’s failure to diagnose cancer, however, can deprive a person of comfort and quality of life.

A Pennsylvania man whose cancer was not diagnosed until just five days before his death—despite seeing numerous doctors at VA medical facilities in Warren and Philadelphia—endured severe pain during the last few months of his life. He first visited a physician in mid-August, 2012 complaining of back pain. The diagnosis: possible liver cirrhosis. A number of tests were performed, including a CT scan that supported the cirrhosis diagnosis, but it also showed abnormal masses in the man’s upper abdomen. Follow up tests were ordered to determine what the masses were, but were never performed. In late August, the man’s pain increased to the point where he became immobile. In early September, he was treated in a VA medical center where he underwent more tests and fluid was drained from his abdomen. He was discharged a few days later and told to seek follow-up care at a VA clinic in Pittsburgh. The referral form was not coded as urgent, however, delayed treatment. By the end of September, the man had lost 45 pounds and his condition deteriorated. On October 1, more fluid was drained from his abdomen and was sent home again. His pain intensified later that day so he sought medical help at the hospital where physicians finally discovered cancerous lesions.

The man’s family filed a complaint with the Department of Veteran Affairs; an investigation found his care to be inadequate. It is unknown if they plan to take legal action. Anyone who suffers needlessly from undiagnosed cancer should speak with an attorney regarding their legal options.

Source: Eerie Times-News, “Report: Erie VA hospital failed to diagnose cancer,” David Bruce, Sep. 30, 2013.