The family of Charles Bradley has flied a wrongful death lawsuit against Everett Care & Rehabilitation and the parent company Sunbridge Healthcare Corp. for failing to take any action when the facility became aware that the skin around Mr. Bradley’s penis was ‘breaking down’. The lawsuit further alleges the that facility’s failure to provide medical attention resulted in the advancement of penile cancer that contributed to Mr. Bradley’s death.
According to the allegations in the lawsuit, staff at Everett Care documented the skin around Mr. Bradley’s penis was ‘breaking down’ while changing his diaper in November, 2007. Despite the staff’s awareness of the skin issues, neither Mr. Bradley’s physician or family was advised of his deteriorating medical condition.
Five months later and by the time Mr. Bradley’s genitals had essentially ‘broken down’, the staff at Everett sent Mr. Bradley to Providence Medical Center where he was treated for a variety ailments including undiagnosed penile cancer.
An investigation into the matter by officials with the Department of Social and Health revealed that the nursing home violated federal law by failing to contact the physician or family of the new medical condition.
Read more about this wrongful death lawsuit filed against a Washington nursing home here.
Despite the seemingly clear violations in terms of failing to timely notify the patient’s physician and family of a changing medical condition, I suspect the family may have a difficult time pursuing theory of recovery based on the ‘failure to diagnose’.
A lawsuit premised on the failure to diagnose cancer, requires the injured party (or estate of the deceased person) prove that the failure to diagnose and treat the cancer in a timely manner resulted in increased harm or death. It generally presumed that patients’ chances of a successful recovery improve if the cancer is diagnosed as early as possible.
A common (and fairly effective) defense to a failure to diagnose case is that even with early diagnosis, many forms of cancer have fairly low survival rates– and the delay in diagnosis is consequently irrelevant.
Nevertheless, in a failure to diagnose cancer case, the plaintiff has the burden of proving the following:
- That there was a duty to timely diagnose the cancer;
- The breach of that duty by the physician;
- Injury or death to the patient; and
- That the injury or death was causally related to the physician’s breach (i.e., a more advanced stage of cancer was reached than should have been).