The Lake City Reporter ran a front-page article about a lawsuit involving the preventable death of Robert Taylor, a Vietnam veteran, who died from lung cancer almost three years ago. Mr. Taylor’s widow has retained our firm to initiate legal action against the federal government as her husband was not told of his lung cancer diagnosis until it was too late.
Sixty-three-year-old Taylor went to the Lake City VA Medical Center after coughing up blood. A CT scan was done and revealed a small mass in his right lung. The mass at that time was a small stage I localized cancer with no evidence of lymph node involvement and was completely curable. However, Mr. Taylor was never notified of the CT scan result until more than seven months later when he called the Lake City VA Medical Center to report another episode of coughing up blood. By that time, the lung cancer had progressed to a stage III incurable metastatic cancer. Mr. Taylor was effectively denied the immediate lung cancer treatment that he needed, which would have cured his lung cancer at that early stage.
Failure to Communicate
Mr. Taylor’s death was preventable; it resulted from systemic failure on the part of the medical providers to communicate critical test results to each other and/or to Mr. Taylor or his wife. Sadly, we often see the failure to communicate as a cause for medical malpractice.
This case underscores the importance of contacting your health care provider if tests were run and you did not receive results. While some providers have policies that they won’t contact you unless there is an abnormal test result, I strongly recommend that you contact your provider and obtain the results of any testing, even if the results were normal.