After only just a few hours deliberation, after a two week trial, a Philadelphia jury awarded the client of Beasley Firm attorney Marsha Santangelo, M.D., $1.97 million in damages for a Fox Chase Cancer Center (FCCC) oncologist’s failure to detect, diagnose, and treat our client’s locally recurrent tubo-ovarian cancer. Dr. Santangelo’s client’s gynecological cancer was treatable, if it had been caught in time, but now it has metastasized, is terminal, and she has less than a year to live. The defendant doctor and Fox Chase Cancer Center were so confident they would win the case they did not make any offer to settle the case prior to trial.
In 1999, this woman was diagnosed with tubo-ovarian cancer, confined to the pelvis, at Temple hospital. She underwent surgery and chemotherapy with no evidence of residual disease or cancer following treatment. She continued to be followed by her gynecologic oncologist at Temple University Hospital until 2000, when that surgeon no longer practiced in Pennsylvania, and our client transferred her gynecologic oncology care to FCCC. From 2000 through 2008 our client was regularly evaluated by the Fox Chase oncologist for routine surveillance, including physical exams and radiology imaging studies of the abdomen and pelvis or x-rays and CT scans. Physical examination and radiology studies remained normal from 2000 through 2003.
In 2004, the FCCC doctor documented in office notes that she was able to feel a round fullness on pelvic and rectovaginal exam, and a CT of the abdomen and pelvis that was ordered confirmed the presence of a mass in the pelvic cul-de-sac (space between the rectum and vagina). The oncology office notes continued to document the presence of a growing mass on pelvic exam, and imaging studies continued to confirm the presence of a mass in the abdomen. Radiologists involved in the interpretation of imaging studies all identified in their reports that the lesion was growing in size. Despite these worrying radiology findings, the oncologist continued to reassure our client that the findings on physical exam and imaging studies were merely fluid that can accumulate after surgery and that it was nothing to be worried about.
It wasn’t until our client presented to a different hospital, Holy Redeemer Hospital, for a blood clot in her leg, that a Holy Redeemer physician thought the abdominal mass was suspicious and recommended a biopsy. At that doctor’s recommendation, our client underwent a biopsy by a Temple University Hospital gynecologic oncologist and the biopsy confirmed recurrent tubo-ovarian cancer. At the time of cancer discovery and diagnosis, the tumor was unresectable (unable to be removed), and she could only have debulking surgery followed by postoperative chemotherapy.
In early 2011, our client began to experience back pain, and imaging studies of the spine confirmed multiple metastatic cancer lesions in the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine, as well as to the sternum, pelvic bone, arm, and lung. Due to the late diagnosis of cancer recurrence, our client’s cancer is incurable, and her life expectancy is less than one year. Dr. Santangelo personally represented the client throughout the lawsuit.
All of us here at The Beasley Firm would like to thank each and every member of the Philadelphia jury who were able to objectively look at all the facts of the case and render a verdict in favor of this woman who only has a year to live due to medical negligence and a failure to diagnose cancer, and to provide her fair and adequate compensation.
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