An emergency nurse from Miami has won a medical malpractice suit against numerous individuals and groups who were responsible for misdiagnosing her inflammatory breast cancer as benign. According to public court documents and a lawyer statement, the nurse, Marlande Lazard, discovered a lump in her breast during a routine self-examination. She then saw a doctor for an ultrasound and mammogram. The doctors then misdiagnosed her with mastitis, which is a breast infection, rather than with the aggressive form of breast cancer that she was actually suffering from.
What is most alarming in this case is that eight different doctors were involved in her particular case throughout the misdiagnosis. The failure to correctly diagnose Lazard as suffering from inflammatory breast cancer resulted from numerous instances of neglect and a lack of communication with the patient. Further, the doctors and technicians did a poor job of communicating amongst themselves. After the initial screening, a lump had indeed been detected. In subsequent screenings, it seems as though the results from the initial screening were not consulted. Furthermore, Lazard herself was not asked about her condition by the doctors examining the test results in the second case.
The doctor in this particular instance, Dr. James Domesek from Signet Diagnostic Imaging Services, places the blame for his oversight on the shoulders of the ultrasound technician. Domesek claims that the technician never indicated the area where the initial lump had been detected. Additionally, Domesek claims that the technician never informed him about the previously conducted tests and their results.
The results of these mistakes were disastrous. Lazard was told that the tumor was benign and antibiotics were assigned to deal with the infection believed to be present. After some time passed, it became clear that the antibiotics were not helping in any way. Lazard then went to get a second opinion. This time, the doctor she saw diagnosed her correctly: incurable breast cancer. The most devastating element in all this is that if Lazard had been correctly diagnosed after first discovering the tumor, she would have had a chance to fight the cancer. Now, after the cancer was allowed to work uninterrupted for over a year, she is simply trying to live for as along as she can in order to support her two children.
Lazard’s court settlement for $21.6 million, awarded against Signet Diagnostic Imaging Services and Domesek, is a victory, but a thin one in light of what could have happened had she been properly examined at the outset of this process.