“An open ICU like Palos is fine as long as the doctors talk to each other…But when you have a situation where you have five physicians who are all supposed to be involved, carrying out their responsibilities by making phone calls to a nurse rather than to each other…these things will happen.” Michael Cogan
Cancer diagnosis failure brings $2.75M settlement
By Jamie Loo
Law Bulletin staff writer
An Evanston medical practice group has agreed to pay a $2.75 million settlement to a woman whose cancer went undiagnosed for nearly four years and is now irreversible.
In April 2006, Lee Weis, 74, had one of her kidneys removed. Prior to her surgery, doctors saw an abnormal mass in an X-ray of her upper left lung. Weis had a CT chest scan in November 2006 which revealed a potential neoplasm.
Philip H. Sheridan, a physician employed with Northshore University Healthsystem Faculty Practice Associates in Evanston, did not order any additional tests to exclude the possibility of a tumor after looking at the scan results, according to court documents.
Although Sheridan ordered three more CT chest scans between 2007 and 2008 which showed the abnormality increasing in size, no tests were ordered to rule out a tumor.
After a May 2009 X-ray by Weis’ primary care physician showed the abnormal growth again, she was referred back to Northshore.
In November 2009, Weis went to Northshore physician Daniel Ray with the results from the previous examinations. Ray ordered another X-ray which found the same abnormality from earlier tests. He did not order additional tests until May 2010, which confirmed the presence of a tumor and cancer.
By this time, Weis’ cancer had metastasized to her lymph nodes and spine.
The lawsuit claimed doctors were negligent for failing to take reasonable measures to determine the true nature of abnormalities through other testing such as a positron emission tomography, or PET, scan or biopsy. It also alleged the doctors failed to consult with an oncologist.
Weis’ husband, Ronald Weis, who was also named as a plaintiff, claimed he suffered a loss of consortium as a result of negligence.
Weis’ attorney, Michael Paul Cogan of Cogan & Power P.C., said this was a sad case because there were many opportunities for doctors to discover the cancer. He said Weis had nine chest X-rays and up to six CT scans.
Weis was a smoker until about 30 years ago and her twin sister had lung cancer, Cogan said, which should have also prompted doctors to take a closer look at her case.
“These two doctors had a very passive approach,” he said.
According to depositions from medical experts, Cogan said there was enough evidence to prompt tests for early detection of Stage 1 cancer, which could have been treated without chemotherapy or radiation.
Over time, the cancer spread to Weis’ scalp and femur. Cogan said she had a recurrence in her femur, which led to hip replacement surgery. With chemotherapy and radiation treatment, Weis had now lived with Stage 4 metastatic bone cancer for three years and is currently undergoing radiation for a lump on the side of her esophagus. According to her doctors, the cancer will eventually be fatal.
Cogan said Weis is determined to spend as much time as possible with her husband of 53 years and still travels to Florida. Weis is relieved a settlement has been reached, he said, and part of the reason she filed the suit was to make sure no other family goes through a similar situation.
A large portion of the settlement will be placed into an annuity for Weis’ grandchildren to someday use toward college.
“She is so upbeat and so intent on seeing her grandchildren get older,” Cogan said.
The attorney for the defendants, Michael J. Cucco of Cassiday, Schade LLP, declined to comment on the case. The defendants were also represented by Kevin J. Glenn of Foran, Glennon, Palandech, Ponzi & Rudloff P.C.
The settlement was mediated by Geoffrey L. Gifford of Pavalon & Cifford and approved by Cook County Circuit Judge Mary A. Mulhern on Nov. 21.
The case is Lee Weis and Ronald Weis v. Northshore University Healthsystems Faculty Practice Associates, No. 11 L 6475.
Originally published on May 15, 2013 in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin