Action- Medical Malpractice
Injuries Alleged –Wrongful death of 71-year-old man due to metastatic prostate cancer
Case Name: Withheld
Amount of Federal Judge Magistrate’s award: One Million two hundred and fifty thousand dollars ($1,250,000.00)
Attorneys: Florence Carey, Crowe and Harris, Boston (for the plaintiff)
Defendant’s attorney- Name withheld
Facts of the Case
This suit was brought against the United States under the Federal Tort Claim Act for the negligence of a physician in the VA system who was the decedent’s primary care doctor from 2010 until his diagnosis with prostate cancer in 2018. The case was tried for five days before Magistrate Page Kelley in the District Court for Massachusetts.
The plaintiff, as personal representative of her husband’s estate claimed that the PCP was negligent in failing to continue screening for prostate cancer that she had ordered in both 2010 and 2011, or in failing to discuss with the decedent her decision to stop ordering prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing and to offer him the option of continued screening. No PSA testing was ordered between 2011 and 2108, when the decedent was diagnosed with widely metastatic prostate cancer. He died in 2020, leaving his wife of 50 years and two adult children.
The plaintiff’s expert testified that once a physician begins PSA screening, it is incumbent upon the physician to follow that history; this is “tracking,” not screening. The plaintiff’s husband in 2010 and 2011 had PSA values which were stable and, at that time, his risk of developing cancer was low. Yet these two values were not predictive of whether he would later develop prostate cancer. The PCP never told the decedent about her decision to stop ordering PSA testing, and never offered him continued PSA screening. Plaintiff’s expert further opined that the defendant’s decision to stop ordering PSA screening for the decedent 2013-2017 fell below the standard of care for the average qualified physician. He testified that nearly all guidelines, including those issued by specific outside organizations such as the American Cancer Society, American Urological Association, American College of Physicians, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, required a minimum of “shared decision making,” including a discussion of the risks and benefits of PSA screening. The plaintiff’s expert testified that continued tracking of the PSA would have permitted an earlier diagnosis, and resulted in a likely cure of the cancer.
The defendant claimed that the US Preventative Task Force 2012 and 2018 as well as one guideline issued by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) did not require PSA screening. The defendant’s expert testified, that although PSA testing is common, there is very little benefit to screening. The defendant’s expert further testified that the decedent had a very unusual, aggressive prostate cancer that would not have been curable even if diagnosed earlier.
The defendant also testified that she would not have recommended continued PSA screening even if a discussion was had, and argued that the decedent would not have elected continued testing. The decedent testified at a videotaped deposition shortly before his death that he would have chosen to continue screening. The plaintiff was also able to show the decedent’s history of concern for his health and attention to preventative care.
The decedent was diagnosed in April 2018 with advanced prostate cancer which had metastasized to the lymph nodes and bones. He underwent hormone therapy as he was no longer a candidate for any other type of treatment. Although he initially responded to the Lupron shots, his PSA levels began to rise again, and his prostate cancer metastasized to his liver. He died at home in April 2020 with his wife at his side.
The court found in favor of the Plaintiff and awarded damages as follows:
1. Conscious suffering of Decedent: $600,000;
2. Loss of companionship and society as to Decedent’s wife: $300,000;
3. Loss of companionship and society as to Decedent’s adult daughter: $150,000;
4. Loss of companionship and society as to Decedent’s adult son: $150,000; and,
5. Loss of consortium as to Decedent’s wife during his life: $50,000.