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Couple sues Veteran Affairs for failure to diagnose cancer

For New York residents, one of the worst pieces of news the doctor can provide is a diagnosis of cancer. Even worse, however, is the failure to diagnose cancer that exists so patients can get timely treatment. For one man in New York, the diagnosis of skin cancer may have come too late for effective treatment.

The man's troubles began two years ago, when he saw a dermatologist at the Bath Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The dermatologist ordered a biopsy due to a lesion on the man's skin. The couple did not hear anything about a diagnosis for two years, and presumably went forward with life not realizing anything was amiss.

In Feb. 2011, the same month that the test was ordered, pathologists provided the dermatologist with information. The biopsy showed ulcerated malignant melanoma. For some reason, the dermatologist did not inform the patient of the issue.

Two years later, the dermatologist retired. A new dermatologist informed the man of his diagnosis. According to a complaint against the VA, by the time the diagnosis was received, the cancer had spread. The man and his wife filed a suit against the federal government for $21 million. The couple is asking for $10 million for the failure to diagnosis, $10 million for bad medical care and $1 million for the wife, probably for pain and suffering and potential loss of companionship.

The lawsuit was filed after the government failed to respond to an injury claim. The original injury claim was for $3.5 million plus $500,000 for loss of companionship for the wife. The government has not made a statement about the case yet, and spokespersons could not be reached. Medical professionals are responsible for delivering timely care, and there is no excuse for failure to provide a diagnosis for two years. The couple has a strong case for a compensation claim.

Source:  Star Gazette, "Schuyler couple seek $21M over VA care" Jason Whong, Jan. 13, 2014

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