Patient Misdiagnosed With Terminal Cancer Compensated

In early 2009, shortly after having a stent inserted to revolve acute chest pain, Mark Templin started experiencing headaches and problems with his vision, speech, and memory.

Templin went to the local VA hospital to have his symptoms checked out and received disheartening news from his doctor, an internist named Dr. Patrick Morrow. The diagnosis, based off abnormalities found on CT scans, metastatic brain cancer. Templin was told he had less than six months to live.

For 148 days Templin, who is in his 70s, believed he was going to die from terminal cancer – likely from a brain hemorrhage or succumbing to a symptomatic effect of the cancer. Proactively, he took measures to prepare.

While getting his affairs in order Templin quit his job, sold personal items including a pickup truck, prearranged funeral services, celebrated his last birthday, prominently posted his “Do No Resuscitate” notice on his refrigerator for first responders to see, and even contemplated suicide as the idea of his family watching him wither away was near unbearable.

Templin underwent additional testing after he noticed an unexpected improvement in his condition. He was then told he’d been experiencing multiple mini-strokes the entire time and did not have cancer. A review of an MRI and CT scan confirmed it.

In order to palliatively treat Temple’s so-called cancer symptoms, he had been prescribed two medications, one of which is not meant to be taken by stroke patients. Hospice care was also ordered following the terminal prognosis.

It was alleged in court that Dr. Morrow failed to convey the other possible causes of Templin’s condition to a VA board when they met to discuss the medical case. Morrow had conferred with a colleague, who, after reviewing the CT scans, suggested the cause could have been from either a brain tumor or a stroke, but further testing was needed to be sure. This information was not disclosed to the VA board who ruled in on the diagnosis later.

Additionally, Morrow made statements in court, conflicting with records, saying he’d advised Templin to undergo an MRI. However, no indications of further diagnostic testing was noted in Templin’s medical records.

According to ABC News, US District Judge Donald Molloy found Morrow had caused undo suffering to Temple and his family when the physician negligently failed to meet the standard of care when delivering the initial diagnosis.

Therefore, Fort Harrison VA Medical Center has been court ordered to pay nearly $60,000 to Temple for the egregious error. Given the difficulty in assessing what someone’s misery is worth, Molloy awarded Templin $59,820. This was calculated by $500 per day for the severe mental and emotion distress the man suffered during the initial diagnosis (from February 4, 2009 to April 15, 2009), $300 per day thereafter, and compensation for the funeral expenses.

The VA has 30 days to appeal the court’s decision.

Do you think Temple should have been awarded more?

[Image via Shutterstock]