Malpractice Lawsuit Over Cancer Misdiagnosis Results in $16.7M Verdict

A Massachusetts jury awarded $16.7 million late last month in a medical malpractice lawsuit brought by the family of a woman who died after a doctors at the world-renowned Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston failed to diagnose lung cancer

The lawsuit was brought by the family of Jeanne Ellis, who died of lung cancer at the age of 47 in August 2008.

According to allegations raised at trial, Dr. Peter Clarke committed medical malpractice when he failed to detect signs of lung cancer on a chest X-ray taken in October 2006 after Ellis came to the emergency room, according to a story in the Boston Globe. Dr. Clarke declared that the X-ray was normal, resulting in Ellis being misdiagnosed with an an upper respiratory infection.

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Ellis was given antibiotics and sent home. However, a little more than a year later, she returned with worse symptoms, and another doctor conducted a CT scan that showed advanced stage lung cancer, which quickly spread to other areas of her body and resulted in her death.

Attorneys for Jeanne Ellis showed that the X-ray that Dr. Clarke saw showed a 1.5-centimeter nodule in Ellis’ upper right lung.

Dr. Clark’s attorneys argued at trial that a chest x-ray is not the most reliable means of detecting lung cancer, and maintained that his interpretation was appropriate. They also claim that Clarke was not given enough of Ellis’ medical history, including 30 years of smoking and the fact that her mother also died of lung cancer.

Following trial, the jury found that the cancer misdiagnosis caused Ellis’ death, and awarded $11 million in damages to her daughter, plus interest, totally $16.7 million. Defense attorneys have indicated that they plan to appeal the verdict.

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