Lab Tech Performing Blood Test
13 April 2018

Massachusetts Jury Awards $4.2M In Late Cancer Diagnosis Case

A Massachusetts state court jury has awarded $4.2 million in damages to the estate and family of a 51-year-old man who died after receiving a delayed diagnosis for kidney cancer, reports.

Jury: Late Diagnosis Led To Billerica Man’s Kidney Cancer Death

The man died on New Year’s Eve, 2014, succumbing to the complications of a kidney cancer that had been diagnosed around 3.5 years earlier. But Neil Senna’s family believes that, had his cancer been diagnosed earlier, their loved one may have had a chance at full recovery.

Blood Test Needle

A jury in the Middlesex County Superior Court agreed, finding that Dr. Ashok Joshi, an internist practicing in Billerica, Massachusetts, had provided Senna with negligent medical care in 2009. Senna received his diagnosis at the age of 51, in 2011, after a urine test performed during a routine physical found evidence of hematuria, blood in his urine.

Hematuria & The Diagnosis Of Kidney Cancer

It’s a common symptom and often harmless, but can also be one of the first signs of kidney cancer. Senna was referred to specialists at Merrimack Urology Associates who performed diagnostic imaging on the man’s kidneys.

The tests revealed that Senna had kidney cancer, but his new doctors went a little further in their investigation, requesting copies of the patient’s prior medical records, which were being held in the possession of Dr. Joshi, his former primary care physician.

PCP Failed To Refer Cancer Patient To Specialist, Jury Finds

That’s when the specialists found a troubling shred of evidence, one that would ultimately lead to a medical malpractice case for delayed cancer diagnosis. In 2009, Dr. Joshi had ordered a urinalysis for Senna. The doctor was looking for signs of hypertension, but the test results also turned up signs of red blood cells in the man’s urine.

A second test, performed a month later, came back negative for hematuria, but as an expert witness testified in the case, kidney cancers can bleed spontaneously at odd intervals.

A single finding of urine in the blood, the witness said, is enough to warrant further investigation, including a referral for specialized treatment.

Man Learned Of Cancer Diagnosis Too Late

Senna wouldn’t get that specialized treatment until two years later, when physicians at Saints Health Services in North Andover diagnosed blood in his urine. By that time, attorneys say, the man’s cancer “had grown to a significant size and had spread,” the Lowell Sun reports.

In an email to the Lowell Sun, Dr. Joshi said, “I address all abnormalities found during evaluation with the patients as the standard of care requires.” Two expert witnesses, testifying on Joshi’s behalf at trial, substantiated that claim, saying the physician had complied with the standard of care in treating Senna.

$4.2M Award For Estate & Children

Apparently, the jury found witnesses for the plaintiffs more convincing. In their findings, jurors for the Lowell state court concluded that Dr. Joshi had failed to comply with the standard of care. The physician’s alleged negligence was a “substantial contributing factor” in Senna’s death, the jury said, awarding $4.2 million in compensation to his estate and children.

The award includes $1.2 million for the man’s pain and suffering prior to his death, along with $1.5 million for each of his two adult children. An attorney for the family says that the case’s outcome will be reported to Massachusetts’ Board of Registration in Medicine. The licensing board’s database shows that Dr. Joshi paid out at least one prior malpractice settlement in 2000.

A Family Man & Proud Carpenter

Senna was a carpenter, the “proud owner” of Neil Senna Carpentry, according to an obituary published by the Lowell Sun. He was also a “big family,” his daughter, Jennifer Meyers, says. “Watching my dad with my daughter — it was priceless,” Meyers told reporters after the verdict. “Watching him teach her the things he taught me when I was a child. It’s stuff like that that you miss.”

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