The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is one of the largest health care providers in the country. Unfortunately, the VA often fails in its mandate to provide medical care for those who have honorably served their country. Medical malpractice is rampant at the VA, according to a 2015 report from the department’s own inspector general, which said “nearly 900,000 military veterans still have pending health care applications” and as many as 300,000 veterans may have died while awaiting care.
VA Doctors Failed to Correctly Identify Tumor
Under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), a veteran may sue the VA for medical malpractice. For example, a Florida judge recently held the VA was negligent in the treatment of an Air Force veteran. The veteran sought care from a VA hospital in West Palm Beach, complaining of blood in his urine. Emergency room personnel performed a CT scan to check for the possible presence of kidney stones. When that scan was negative, the hospital performed an ultrasound on the veteran’s bladder, which also did not reveal any stones.
A few weeks later, the veteran saw a VA urologist, who ordered a specialized urine test known as a cytology. For some reason, this test was never actually performed. A few more weeks elapsed before the urologist performed a cystoscopy, a procedure where a camera was inserted into the veteran’s bladder. During this examination, the urologist located what he believed to be a stone inside the bladder.
Although the urologist insisted the stone was “benign,” the veteran continued to experience symptoms, including pain while urinating. About four months after he first sought care at the VA, the urologist prescribed medication, but the veteran never received it. After several more months passed, the veteran saw a private urologist, who performed a second cystoscopy and discovered the “benign” stone was actually a malignant tumor. The veteran required emergency surgery to remove part of his bladder. While the surgery was successful in removing the cancer, the veteran required several follow-up procedures and continues to experience health problems such as incontinence.
The veteran sued the VA, arguing a series of negligent acts dating back to his initial visit to the West Palm Beach hospital delayed the diagnosis of his bladder cancer, allowing it to progress to a Stage III cancer requiring surgery. The case was tried without a jury before U.S. District Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks. On May 31, Judge Middlebrooks entered a judgment in favor of the veteran. Among other things, the judge found the VA failed to order a second CT scan that could have detected the tumor months before it was finally diagnosed. The judge also cited the VA’s failure to follow up on its specialist’s own orders for medication and additional diagnostic procedures, as well improperly identifying the veteran’s tumor as a benign stone. “Based on the pain and suffering caused by the delay in diagnosis,” the judge awarded the veteran $500,000 in damages.
Have You Suffered Due to a Delayed Cancer Diagnosis?
Delayed and incorrect diagnoses negatively affect patients throughout Florida patients every day. If you have suffered emotionally due to a physician’s or hospital’s negligence, you should speak with an experienced Clearwater medical malpractice lawyer who can advise you of your rights. Contact the Law Office of Paul B. Genet at (727) 538-8865 if you need to speak with an attorney right away.