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Lawsuit: Misread MRI Led To Brain Damage

March 6, 2012
Written by: , Filed in: Chest Radiology, Diagnostic Imaging, Neuroradiology
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A 66-year-old woman suffers a seizure. Masses are found in her lungs and brain. A radiologist looks at MRI images and determines that cancer from the lungs has spread to several areas of the brain. Immediate treatment is called for. The woman undergoes whole-brain radiation therapy.

Just an hour or so after the treatment, doctors tell the woman’s family that a mistake has been made. Another radiologist has looked at the MRI scans and said the masses in the brain were abscesses from infection. The woman does not have cancer.

But she does have something else: brain damage. A formerly active, energetic grandmother now walks unsteadily, often forgets what she is talking about, and is unable to care for herself.

The woman is Jessie Kay of Barrie, Ontario, Canada. Her family has filed a $6 million lawsuit against Princess Margaret Hospital of Toronto (a leading cancer hospital) and the doctors who treated her there, including the radiologist who saw signs of cancer in the MRI scan.

According to a heart-wrenching story from the National Post, a newspaper based in Toronto, the oncologist and oncology resident named in the lawsuit have admitted that Kay was misdiagnosed and given the wrong treatment.

Kay’s daughter, Leigh Recker, said that shortly after the whole-brain radiation treatment, her mother developed a severe headache and experienced a seepage of clear fluid from her nose. Recker continued:

By the wee hours of the morning, she was vomiting and became incontinent. She was virtually in a coma.

The family’s lawyer, Barbara MacFarlane, said the lawsuit contends the brain damage was caused by the radiation treatment, the delay in treating the abscesses because of the misdiagnosis, or both.

Said Recker, Kay’s daughter, “Everything just changed so much in one day.”

The radiologist accused of misreading the MRI is Marilyn Anne Keller, MD. Master Joan Haberman of Toronto Superior Court said in a preliminary ruling that Dr. Keller expressed surprised when first told of the lawsuit last year.

According to the ruling, Dr. Keller didn’t deny any of the charges but told the court she didn’t remember the patient. “In view of the nature of the allegations made against her,” Master Haberman said in the ruling, “it is startling and rather worrisome that she cannot recall the case.”

Related seminar: Diagnostic Imaging Review: For Residents, Fellows and Radiologists

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One Response to “Lawsuit: Misread MRI Led To Brain Damage”

  1. Robert on March 9th, 2012 at 10:57 am

    Amazing that she got radiation treatment so quickly in Canada!

    And I’m sure the multiple brain abscesses (and lungs) had no effect on her condition?