What our investigation uncovered after a young boy’s mother died.
Tahir* was only three-years-old when he sat by his mother’s bed as she took her last breath, finally succumbing to the cancer she had courageously battled against as long as he had known her. As Tahir’s grandmother looked on, she knew that the little boy would never get to know more about the wonderful mother he had just lost — her daughter — and she was incensed by the knowledge that her daughter’s complaints had been neglected by her doctors for more than a year.
By the time someone investigated and discovered Tahir’s mother’s cancer, it was far too late. Tahir would face life without a parent, and his grandmother prayed that she would be strong enough, and healthy enough, to meet the challenges of raising him.
After having her claims rejected by other law firms, Tahir’s grandmother was put in touch with our team. We investigated her concerns and had the care reviewed by top-notch experts with national reputations. During the investigation, our team of experts confirmed that the young mother had complained of pain and a growth in her foot for more than a year before anyone did anything to investigate it. She had been seen by medical staff on more than 10 occasions, mostly during her pregnancy with Tahir for prenatal care, in which her complaints were recorded in the medical records but not investigated. Moreover, these complaints signaled a rare, but treatable, soft tissue tumor in her foot that was allowed to grow, spreading until it reached the deadly point where a cure was no longer an option.
How could this have happened?
Our investigation also uncovered the policy at a major Philadelphia teaching hospital in which poor and uninsured patients were treated in the clinic but were seen only by medical residents — doctors who were still training in their specialty. This care was supposed to have been overseen by the more senior attending physicians, who had years of experience and were charged with teaching and supervising the residents. But the attending physicians never laid eyes on Tahir’s mother. And, although questions about the consistent complaints of foot pain and a “lump” were noted, they were never investigated by anyone at the hospital.
Once we found out what had happened, we started a lawsuit asserting claims against these attending doctors for ignoring their responsibilities. After two years of litigation, and no offers of settlement, the case reached trial. The doctors’ attorneys called more than a dozen local doctors to the witness stand who, one after another, testified that our experts were wrong, and that the attending physicians acted reasonably, arguing that nothing could have been done to save this young woman’s life. When it was our turn, we presented the testimony of national experts who specialized in treating the type of cancer that killed Tahir’s mother. They taught the jury about how reasonable and caring physicians were trained to investigate these types of complaints, and importantly, about how early treatment meant the difference between life and death.
After two days of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict for Tahir in the amount of $8 million. The jury affirmed what Tahir’s grandmother knew in her heart. Her daughter died because she could only afford poor healthcare; she died because no one paid proper attention to her. Tahir’s grandmother’s only comfort was that the system had been exposed so that other lives would not be lost in the same fashion.
Thankfully, she now has means to ensure that Tahir has every opportunity to succeed, notwithstanding the enormous loss he suffered so early in his young life.
*A pseudonym is being used to preserve confidentiality.