Legal Pearl

Court Holds that Doctor’s Negligence Does Not Rise to Fraudulent Concealment of Cancer

Ann W. Latner, JD

  • The patient was hospitalized in 2004 when a computerized tomography (CT) scan showed a mass on her right kidney, but neither the patient nor her family was notified of the mass. In 2006, she was again treated at the same hospital when another CT scan showed the same mass. Again, neither the patient nor her family was informed. In 2009, the patient was seen in the emergency department of the same hospital, with reports of abdominal pain. She was cared for by a physician who performed an examination and had abdominal scans taken and then diagnosed the patient with constipation and sent her home. On the way home, the patient got another call from a resident physician supervised by the admitting physician. The resident told the patient to return to the hospital because further review of the scan had triggered some concern. Back at the hospital again, she was told she had colitis and was given an antibiotic. Despite the fact that the 2009 scan showed the mass had grown since 2004 and 2006, no mention was made of it. The patient returned to the emergency department with abdominal pain 2 days later. The CT scan again showed the mass. Although the admitting physician sent a letter to the patient’s primary care physician (PCP) notifying the PCP of her diagnosis of colitis, he did not mention the kidney mass.

    Seven years later, in 2016, while being treated for a broken arm, another CT again revealed the kidney mass and a nurse mentioned it to the patient upon discharge. According to the family, this was the first time they were notified. The patient was later diagnosed with metastatic renal carcinoma, which she died from in 2019. Her family sued the hospital.

    Are the hospital and physician at fault?

    (Answer and discussion on next page)