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A police officer who was suffering from rectal bleeding and other gastric complaints went to see an Indiana doctor in 2004. Despite having symptoms indicating the possible presence of colorectal cancer, the doctor did not order a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy to test for colon cancer.
The 35-year-old police officer was treated for other conditions and was discharged. Later he moved to Arizona, and saw another doctor about the continued problem of rectal bleeding. The Arizona doctor ordered testing in August 2006 that found that the officer did indeed have colon cancer. By the time the cancer was discovered, it had reached Stage 4 and was incurable.
The police officer filed a medical malpractice suit against the Indiana doctor in January of 2009, citing the doctor’s failure to perform tests that would have led to a much earlier diagnosis of the colorectal cancer.
Just a few weeks ago, the case came to trial. After four days of testimony, the jury found in favor of the police officer, and found that he should receive $2.5 million in damages relating to medical expenses, pain and suffering, and decreased life expectancy.
Although this may seem like a clear victory for the plaintiff and for all those who fight to hold negligent physicians accountable for the harm they cause, Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorneys reluctantly point out that regardless of the jury’s findings, the man may not be able to recover what they clearly feel he deserves.
Unfortunately, Indiana has a cap of $1.25 million on medical malpractice claims, so regardless of the jury’s decision, the officer will only be compensated for his damages up to that amount.
The jury was not informed of this cap and did not take it into account in its deliberations.
Cases like this one demonstrate the injustices that can be done by putting caps on medical malpractice damages. Juries should be able to consider the facts and determine the full and fair compensation for all injuries. Putting a cap on damages without knowing any of the facts practically guarantees that many medical malpractice injuries will not be compensated, and that the full weight of the injuries will be borne by the victims.
The police officer in this case now has a prognosis of less than a year to live. An earlier diagnosis could have saved his life and given him a chance to spend many more healthy years with his friends and family — and serving his community.
There is nothing unreasonable about a jury considering the damage from this misdiagnosis to be worth more than $1.25 million.
Source: TribStar, “Vigo jury awards $2.5M in medical malpractice case,” 3/5/2011