Cancer may have been the official cause of death on a South Carolina woman’s death certificate but it didn’t have to be that way.

In fact, the jury strongly felt that her death could have been avoided if her doctors had been better at communicating with each other and delays in her care had been avoided.

They felt so strongly about it that they gave her husband a $10 million wrongful death verdict — an unusually high amount that signals the jury was sending a message to other doctors and hospitals. In this case, the message seems to be: “Get it together. Patient lives are on the line!”

The malpractice case filed by the woman’s husband was jointly against both the woman’s doctor and the Urological facility under which he was employed. Previously, the urological association had offered the woman’s husband a mere $250,000 for his claim — which he rejected.

That ultimately led to the case going to court — a maneuver that’s always somewhat risky for survivors because they never know how a jury is going to react.

In this case, a lower award might have been expected simply because of the woman’s age — she was 70 when she died. Generally speaking, wrongful death verdicts tend to be higher when the victim is in the prime of his or her life and at the peak of his or her earnings capacity — those are usually factors that are part of the consideration when it comes to “actual losses.”

medical malpractice victim South Carolina

In this case, however, there was simply no excuse for the poor care the woman received. While growth was noted in her liver, her doctors put off the surgery that could have saved her life while the mass was still small and possibly noncancerous. It grew, but nobody communicated this to the patient.

When the victim began to complain of pain and it was noted the growth was larger, the radiologist clearly stated the mass was likely malignant and needed to be removed. Still, nobody bothered to tell the patient.

By the time the next scan was done, it was too late. Cancer had spread everywhere in her body, which meant she’d lost her window of opportunity for survival.

What’s particularly tragic is that kidney cancer is 94 percent curable.

If your loved one is the victim of medical malpractice, take steps to learn about your rights to redress such a tragedy, at least financially and morally.

Source:, “Columbia doctor must pay $10 million in fatal cancer case, jury says,” John Monk, Nov. 02, 2017