Man pursues medical negligence claim for slow cancer diagnosis

Date: Apr 20, 2015

A man is pursuing a medical negligence case against Sydney Local Health District after alleging that doctors didn’t diagnose his cancer in time.

The brewery worker has terminal lung cancer but claims medical practitioners failed to adequately follow up on a lesion that was discovered during a CT scan.

Court documents state that the man visited Concord Hospital in August 2012 after he fell from a ladder, fracturing his pelvis and spine. After examining a cervical spine scan, a radiologist said the patient had emphysema, a calcified granuloma and a lesion on his lung.

The doctor thought the lesion could be an infection or a tumour and advised an outpatient follow-up to investigate the issue further. However, when the man was later discharged, his referral papers failed to inform him to see a physician in order to have the lesion checked.

Within a year, the man was admitted to Westmead Hospital where he was diagnosed with lung cancer after a mass with associated bone destruction was spotted.

Further scans showed the cancer had spread to his ribs and lymph nodes. By the time legal proceedings had begun on his medical negligence claim, the man was told his condition was terminal and he had a greatly reduced life expectancy.

Judge dismisses defendant application

The case is still ongoing, although the judge has dismissed an application from Sydney Local Health District that asked for the plaintiff’s employment history.

According to the organisation, the information was requested to see whether or not the man had been exposed to asbestos during the course of his job, which can lead to lung diseases.
However, Justice Ian Harrison denied the application, stating that it had no bearing on the defendant’s duty of care to the patient.

“It is in [these] circumstances irrelevant whether the malignancy is the result of work-related exposure to asbestos or to cigarette smoking or to any other possible contributing cause or causes,” he stated.

“[The plaintiff’s] presenting condition was patent and detected following radiological investigation. He alleges that the defendant had an obligation at that time to treat him in accordance with proper standards of medical care.”

The judge noted that his decision may have been different if the defendant had been able to argue that the cause of the man’s cancer had an influence on how well he would respond to treatment.

However, Justice Harrison added that he was not aware of scientific evidence to support this theory and Sydney Local Health District had not raised the issue anyway.

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