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Widower sues hospital, doctor for failure to diagnose cancer

The widower of a woman who helped found a project dedicated to the promotion of the arts has sued both the woman's oncologist and a hospital after the woman died of liver cancer.

In his wrongful death lawsuit, the husband alleges that when his late wife sought treatment in 2008 for a growth on her liver, the woman's doctor took an approach of "watchful waiting" and indicated that he would schedule further testing the following year. The doctor never scheduled a follow up.

Eventually, in 2011, the woman decided to get a second opinion from a different doctor. This doctor promptly ordered additional tests and determined that the growth on her liver was cancerous. Unfortunately, the cancer continued to spread despite treatment and affected the woman's other organs. The woman died last year.

The man's suit, which he recently filed, claims that but for the doctor's failure to diagnose the cancer, his late wife's disease might have been successfully treated. The man is filing on behalf of the wife's estate and is seeking an undetermined amount of compensation.

If this case teaches Arizona doctors anything, it indicates that while the approach of "watchful waiting" may be a legitimate approach to treating a medical condition, it is important that "waiting" not become synonymous with doing nothing at all. When a doctor is monitoring a medical condition, he or she needs to make sure that he or she schedules timely follow-ups. The failure of a doctor to do so could be grounds for a wrongful death suit that alleges medical negligence.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "UPMC, cancer doctor named in lawsuit for alleged malpractice," Gavan Gideon, Aug. 6, 2013

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