Prostate cancer affects African-American men earlier and often more aggressively than the rest of the population. Men of African-American descent are at greater risk of developing prostate cancer at a younger age. Consequently, physicians generally advocate that African-American males should be informed about screening tests available for prostate cancer earlier (the suggested age is 45) so as to raise the likelihood that if they do develop cancer it can be detected at an early stage while it is still curable. A doctor who does not comply with the guidelines for a patient might be liable in the event it is consequently learned that the patient had prostate cancer which metastasized because of the doctor’s failure to inform him about screening tests.
But beyond the guidelines, it may also be malpractice if a patient specifically ask for screening for a given cancer and the physician fails to do so. For example, in a reported lawsuit the patient was an African-American man, age 41, who requested to be tested for prostate cancer. The patient requested for the screening test after participating in a campaign to increase awareness about the risk middle-aged African-American men face with respect to prostate cancer.
The doctor performed a digital examination and identified no abnormalities. The doctor ordered blood tests for the patient yet did not get a PSA test. The patient figured a PSA test was ordered and simply believed that there were no abnormal results as he did not hear anything more about it. The patient saw the doctor again two years later. The physician again did not order a PSA test. This time the doctor did not even do a digital examination.
What this doctor did was to give the patient a false sense of security. By doing the digital examination of the prostate and ordering blood tests the doctor gave the man the understanding that the doctor had conducted a full screening. In situations like these, most patients would likely feel that a PSA test had in fact bee ordered along with the rest of the blood tests which has bee ordered on the second visit. Either way, though, he certainly was justified in believing he had completed a full screening in the earlier visit.
Advance to later that same year. The patient goes back to the same medical practice but is seen by a different doctor. This doctor both performed a digital examination and order a PSA test. The patient now learned that he had prostate cancer with bone metastasis. Even though the guidelines typically suggest that African-American males be at least informed about screening for prostate cancer starting when they reach age forty-five, which this patient was now turning, in this scenario the patient had specifically asked to be tested before that age.
The patient filed a malpractice claim against the doctor who had failed to get the PSA testing. The law firm that took the case reported that it took the case to trail where a jury returned a verdict in the amount of $ 2,750,000 on behalf of the patient. The defendants appealed. As the appeal was pending the parties reached a settlement for an undisclosed amount that was less than the original verdict. The Appeals Court subsequently denied the appeal.