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CA: failure to diagnose lesion--death results: judgment for Dr. granted in part--denied in part.

CASE FACTS: Fred Watts saw Dr. Gebre Gobezie on October 22, 1999, complaining that he could not eat, had difficulty swallowing, and was trying to lose weight. Although the patient belched constantly, he reported that his appetite was good. The patient also complained of generalized fatigue, a wheezing cough, shortness of breath, and a history of hypertension, nausea, constipation, headaches, and frequent urination. After examining the patient, Dr. Gobezie diagnosed the patient with questionable reflux esophagitis, peptic ulcer disease, exogenous morbid obesity, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and degenerative osteoarthritis. Dr. Gobezie recommended various diagnostic tests including esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) if the patient's symptoms continued. Since the patient's symptoms continued, an EGD with possible biopsy was ordered. The patient's esophagus appeared "ulcerated and angry looking." The physician admitted the patient for observation and further management. A biopsy specimen was sent to a pathologist to determine whether there was any evidence of necrosis or acute and chronic inflammatory cells consistent with Barrett's Esophagus. The patient's symptoms persisted. On March 3, 2000, the patient sought a second opinion from Dr. Moothdath Menon, who performed a second EGD and biopsy. Dr. Menon discovered 3-4 cm circumferential mass lesion, which was slightly ulcerated and highly suspicious for neoplasm. The pathology report revealed poorly differentiated infiltrating adenocarcinoma. The patient died of gastroensophageal carcinoma one month later. The plaintiffs wife filed suit against Dr. Gobezie alleging negligence and wrongful death. The Superior Court, San Bernardino County, granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment. The plaintiff appealed.

COURT'S OPINION: The Court of Appeal of California affirmed the lower court's granting of summary judgment for the defendant physician as to the cause of action for wrongful death. However, the court reversed the lower court's granting of summary judgment as to recovery for the negligence of Dr. Gobezie in failing to timely diagnose and treat the patient's condition. The court noted that based on the decision by the Division of Medical Quality Control of the Medical Board of California, the plaintiff had raised a triable issue of fact as to Dr. Gobezie's breach of the applicable standard of care. The trial court took judicial notice of the Board's decision. The court concluded that it clearly raised an issue of fact as to whether the defendant provided competent care for numerous patients, one being the decedent. Watts v. Gobezie, 2003 WL 21702461 P.2d--CA

Meet the Editor & Publisher: A. David Tammelleo, JD, is a nationally recognized authority on health care law. Practicing law for over 40 years, he concentrates in health care law with the Providence, R.I. firm of A. David Tammelleo & Associates. He has presented seminars on medical, nursing and hospital law throughout the United States. In addition to his writings as Editor of Medical Law's, Nursing Law's & Hospital Law's Reagan Reports, his legal articles have been published in the most prestigious health law journals. A prolific writer, his thousands of articles, as well as his achievement as an attorney and lecturer, have won him recognition in Martindale-Hubbell's Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers, Marquis Who's Who in American Law, and Who's Who in America.
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Title Annotation:Medical Malpractice Cases
Publication:Medical Law's Regan Report
Date:Oct 1, 2003
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