$375,000 Settlement for Medical Malpractice - Failure to Diagnose Rectal Cancer

The 58-year-old plaintiff reported a two-month history of blood in her stool to her gynocologist in September 1999. The gynecologist referred the plaintiff to the defendant primary care physician.

The defendant physician saw the plaintiff and recommended a sigmoidoscopy, which was negative for polyps, strictures or obstructions. The defendant diagnosed the plaintiff with hemorrhoids.

No further examination or follow up was performed for the next two years.

In June 2001, the plaintiff reported an episode of rectal bleeding to the defendant primary care physician who advised the plaintiff to use anusol suppositories for six days and to return for a rectal exam if she experienced a recurrence of bleeding or other symptoms. The plaintiff did not return. Rather, she saw her gynecologist in October 2001. The plaintiff explained to the gynecologist what had occurred, and the gynecologist referred the plaintiff for a colonoscopy.

A colonoscopy was performed and revealed a tumor, which was described as barely palpable, at the end of the digital exam, about 10-12 cms.

The plaintiff underwent a low anterior resection and supracervical hysterectomy. The cancer was described as 4.5 cm., moderately differentiated and present in the rectum as an ulcerated mass. The tumor was noted to have invaded the muscularis propria into the pericolonic soft tissue. One of three lymph nodes was found to be positive for cancer.

The plaintiff alleged that the defendant deviated from the standard of care in failing to refer the plaintiff for colonoscopy. The defendant and his expert were expected to testify at trial that it was appropriate to perform sigmoidoscopy, and that the mass was likely not present, given its location at the time of diagnosis, which was well within the reach of the scope.

The defendant and his expert were further expected to testify that the plaintiff's treatment would not have been significantly different if the cancer had been diagnosed earlier, and there was little risk of metastatic disease, given the passage of nearly five years since diagnosis.