Gallbladder Disease Misdiagnosis Lawsuit Settled by VA

The Department of Veterans Affairs has agreed to pay more than $100,000 to the family of a man who allegedly died due to a failure to diagnose gallbladder cancer and other substandard care. 

Jimmy Lee Stapleton, 68, died from gallbladder cancer on June 2, following two years of what family members described as negligent care and medical malpractice at three different VA hospitals in Georgia.

Earlier this month, just two months after his death, the VA agreed to settle a wrongful death lawsuit for more than $100,000, according to a report by the Augusta Chronicle.

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The family began pursuing the VA claim before Stapleton’s death, indicating about a year ago that the VA should have to pay for the army veteran to receive care in a private medical facility in either Dublin or Macon, because the state’s three VA hospitals did not have room for him.

Stapleton’s problems first began in 1998, when doctors at the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center in Dublin diagnosed the vet as having gallstones. Despite his pain and discomfort, the VA refused to remove the gallstones, the family alleged in the claim.

The condition went untreated for 13 years, until October 2011, when he was diagnosed with pancreatitis. A month later, VA doctors decided to remove his gallbladder and parts of his liver, but failed to identify signs of cancer. They were suspicious enough, however, to have him get testing and potentially undergo chemotherapy.

That was easier said than done, as the VA cancelled a number of appointments at the last minute and said they were unable to see him. The VA also indicated that it was unable to pay for Stapleton to go to private medical care.

The VA malpractice settlement comes in the midst of a controversy over excessive wait times at VA clinics nationwide, and the discovery that some VA officials had faked paper work and left veterans on long waiting lists while concealing the fact that they were not receiving timely care.

Congress recently approved a $17 billion bill that would help pay for veterans to receive private medical care for free if VA resources in their area could not treat them in a timely or sufficient fashion.

The VA said that the settlement was not an admission of guilt or wrongdoing.

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