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Court OKs ‘Anguish’ Lawsuit Over Mammogram

April 22, 2011
Written by: , Filed in: Breast Imaging
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The Ohio Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Wednesday that a 73-year-old woman can seek damages for emotional distress from a radiologist who, she says, failed to detect breast cancer that was visible in a mammogram.

The ruling clarified the legal question of whether the growth of breast cancer constitutes an “injury.” Justice Yvette McGee Brown, author of Wednesday’s ruling, wrote that “the destruction of additional healthy cells and increased number of cancer cells are physical injuries, not mere physical change.”

Lonna Loudin of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, says in her lawsuit that, though she had undergone annual mammograms since 1997, radiologist Richard Patterson, MD, of Reflections Breast Health Center in Akron, Ohio, failed in 2003 to detect a cancerous mass in her left breast. Her attorney, Lawrence Scanlon of Akron, said the cancer had been there for years.

Loudin’s cancer is in remission, but she contends that the missed diagnosis inflicted mental anguish and caused her to endure more-invasive treatment than she otherwise would have suffered. After discovering the cancer through self-examination in 2004, she underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment and had eight lymph nodes surgically removed.

According to the Akron Beacon Journal, Scanlon said:

Lonna feels very strongly about it—that women who rely upon annual mammography for cancer screening ought to be able to hold radiologists accountable when they’re wrong. And they tried to avoid responsibility here.

Summit County Judge Lynne Callahan dismissed the lawsuit in May 2009, ruling that the growth of existing cancer had never legally been considered a “physical injury.” Ohio’s 9th District Court of Appeals reversed the ruling, saying that the spread of cancer was indeed a physical injury and that Loudin’s consequent fear of a greater chance of recurrence constituted an emotional injury.

The Supreme Court agreed with the appellate court. The case now goes all the way back to Judge Callahan’s court for a trial.

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