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New York Court Discusses Duty of Care Owed by Hospitals in Screening for Cancer

When people are diagnosed with cancer, they rely on hospitals and oncologists to provide appropriate care and treatment. If an oncologist advises a person that the person’s cancer is in remission, the person will generally take this to mean that they no longer have cancer. Recently, a New York appellate court addressed the issue of whether a hospital can be held liable for advising a patient that he is cancer free following treatment for prostate cancer, when the patient is suffering from colon cancer that has not yet been diagnosed. If you suffered harm due to an oncologist’s failure to appropriately diagnose or treat your cancer, you should speak with a knowledgeable Rochester oncology malpractice attorney regarding your injuries and your potential claims.

Factual Background

Allegedly, in October 2004, the plaintiff’s decedent was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the first defendant hospital. An MRI and bone scan showed that the cancer was not metastatic. He sought a second opinion, and ultimately began treating with the defendant oncologist at the second defendant hospital. In July 2005, the defendant oncologist advised the plaintiff’s decedent that he was biochemically and clinically free of any evidence of the disease. In November 2005, however, the plaintiff’s decedent visited his urologist with complaints of rectal bleeding. He tested positive for blood in his stool and was referred to a gastroenterologist. The plaintiff’s decedent was ultimately diagnosed with metastatic colon cancer. He underwent treatment, including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, but lost his battle with cancer in June 2007.

It is reported that before his death, the plaintiff’s decedent filed an oncology malpractice lawsuit against the defendant hospitals and defendant oncologist, which was converted to a wrongful death case following the plaintiff’s decedent’s death. The defendant hospitals filed motions for summary judgment, asking the court to dismiss the claims against them. The court granted the motions, and the plaintiff appealed.

A Hospital’s Duty in Rendering Care to a Cancer Patient

Under New York law, while doctors owe a duty of care to their patients, the duty may be limited to the functions the doctor undertakes and which are relied upon by the patient. Whether a doctor owes a duty of care to a patient is not an issue to be determined by an expert opinion but is a question for the court.

In the subject case, the plaintiff argued that because his expert raised a triable issue of fact as to whether the defendant hospitals should have performed a colonoscopy as part of the plaintiff’s decedent’s cancer screening, summary judgment was improper. The court held, however, that the plaintiff did not set forth any evidence showing that the defendant hospitals assumed a general duty of care to screen the plaintiff’s decedent for other cancers for which he was not symptomatic. Further, the court stated that there was no evidence indicating that the plaintiff’s decedent relied on the defendant hospitals for such care. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Consult a Seasoned Attorney About Your Case

A cancer diagnosis can be scary and unsettling, but with appropriate monitoring and treatment, many cancer patients have a good prognosis. If an oncologist fails to provide adequate care, however, it can result in significant harm, including a person’s death. If you were harmed by oncology malpractice you should consult a seasoned Rochester oncology malpractice attorney about your case and what recourse you may be able to seek for your harm. The attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers will work tirelessly to help you obtain a favorable result under the circumstances. We can be contacted via our form online or at 833-200-2000 to schedule a confidential and free meeting about your case.


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