Surgeon Prepares For Kidney Operation
29 November 2017

South Carolina Family Secures $10M Verdict In Delayed Cancer Treatment Case

On November 2, 2017, a South Carolina jury awarded $10 million in compensation to the surviving family of a woman who died because her doctors allegedly failed to perform a life-saving surgery, The State reports. As jurors concluded after a week-long trial, urologists at Columbia Urological Associates should be held accountable for the woman’s death, which came on October 1, 2012 after a battle against kidney cancer.

Saying the judgment had “no justification,” attorneys for the urological practice have already filed a petition to overturn or lower the $10 million award. The defense lawyers had offered a settlement of $250,000, which the woman’s husband refused, prior to the trial.

Urologist Failed To Perform Necessary Surgery, Family Claims

Court documents filed on behalf of the plaintiff family paint a picture of miscommunication, negligence and medical malpractice.

Doctor and Nurse Prepare Syringe

A mother of three, the deceased plaintiff was receiving treatment from two practices in 2010. Her primary care was being administered by Dr. Jerry Robinson, an internist in Columbia, South Carolina. At the same time, Dr. Philip Kinder was providing the woman with specialized care at Columbia Urological Associates.

Both medical teams were watching the same medical problem, a growth on the patient’s left kidney. It wasn’t cancerous yet, but Dr. Kinder, taking the cautious route, had begun to consider surgery. In a decision that would ultimately prove tragic, Kinder delayed the surgical procedure, in which the woman’s kidney would have been removed.

As Cancer Grew, Lawsuit Claims, Specialist Did Nothing

In April 2011, Dr. Robinson, the patient’s primary care physician, noted that, while still not sufficient to indicate surgical operation, the kidney growth was definitely cause for concern. In a medical report filed in court, the doctor said the woman’s tumor “may ultimately require” surgical removal. Dr. Robinson scheduled a six-month follow-up appointment. A few months later, however, the patient found herself back in Dr. Robinson’s office.

She’d begun to experience lower back pain, so the physician ordered a CT scan. The test turned up more evidence of trouble. As the radiologist’s report made clear, the growth on the woman’s kidney was getting bigger. “Follow up and / or evaluation” was recommended, the radiologist wrote, “to exclude […] underlying malignancy.” In short, the tumor could now be cancer; more study was necessary.

Kidney Cancer Metastasized To Other Organs

But the radiologist’s findings were never communicated to Dr. Kinder, the woman’s kidney specialist, her surviving loved ones claim. Instead, their lawsuit says, the work of tracking the patient’s cancer was left up to her primary care physician. In June of 2012, the woman returned to Dr. Robinson, who ordered another scan of the kidney. The tumor had become enormous, leading the radiologist to write, in no uncertain terms, “this is absolutely […] malignant.”

It was already too late, court records state. The cancer had metastasized, spreading into other parts of the patient’s body. She visited an oncologist, but “the cancer was too advanced,” the lawsuit continues. She died about three months later. She was 70-years-old.

“One Of The Most Curable Cancers Out There”

Kidney cancer is one of the few malignancies that is usually diagnosed early. Striking about 1 in 63 Americans, the cancer is extremely rare in people under the age of 45, according to the American Cancer Society. About 65% of patients are diagnosed when the disease is still confined to the kidney. At this point, the cancer is associated with 92.6% five-year survival rate. That’s almost unheard of in the world of cancer. “Kidney cancers [are] one of the most curable cancers out there,” the family’s attorney notes.

And more timely intervention, the lawyer argues, could have saved the life of his clients’ loved one. “At least up to August 2011, surgical intervention more likely than not would have prevented [the patient’s] death from cancer,” the legal team writes. Dr. Kinder “failed to timely follow-up and intervene,” the lawsuit continues.

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