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Failure To Timely Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Wrongful Death Verdict


Holthaus v. United States, U.S. District Court, D. Haw., No. 88-00074

Parker, 73, began to experience urinary problems and went to an Army medical center. He was examined by Polskin, a family practitioner. Polskin ordered tests of Parker’s urinary tract and diagnosed benign prostatic hypertrophy and possible prostatitis.

A year later, Parker returned to the medical center for additional tests, including a digital rectal examination. During the examination, a surgical resident noted a prostate nodule.

Parker’s urinary problems persisted, and, a year later, he was examined by an urologist at the center. The physician noted an enlarged, hardened, irregular prostate. Although Parker was told to undergo additional prostate evaluation, he delayed further examination for six months. At that time, a needle biopsy, cystoscopy, and circumcision revealed prostate cancer. A month later, a bone scan confirmed that the disease had metastasized and was in terminal stages.

Parker underwent multiple invasive surgeries and experienced severe pain and emotional trauma until his death two years later. Parker, a retired military officer, is survived by his wife and two adult daughters.

Parker’s estate sued the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act, alleging that its physicians had been negligent for failing to (1) follow up on Parker’s abnormal prostate examinations, (2) timely perform tests to rule out prostate cancer, and (3) diagnose prostate cancer while it was still in the early stages. The complaint also alleged that Parker’s had suffered loss of consortium.

The judge awarded $275,000, including $40,000 for loss of consortium, and added ten-percent prejudgment interest to the award.

Plaintiffs’ Experts:
Joseph Spalding, urology, San Francisco, Cal.
Richard Cohen, oncology, San Francisco, Cal.

Plaintiffs’ Counsel:
Mark S. Davis, Honolulu, Haw.

[The court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law are available through the Offerings section at p. 19, courtesy of Mr. Davis.]