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Medical malpractice: Delayed care led to genital amputation

When it comes to medical care, the timing of evaluation, diagnosis and the implementation of treatment can mean the difference between success and failure, or in some circumstances, life and death. A recently filed medical malpractice lawsuit claims that delays in evaluation and subsequent treatment left one man with no choice other than to be subjected to genital amputation in order to save his life. Patients in Massachusetts and across the nation should take note of the potential consequences of allowing a proper diagnosis to be delayed.

The patient in this case was a prisoner at the time that his illness was discovered. Having complained for some time of a painful lesion on his penis, he was first misdiagnosed with genital herpes. In reality, however, he was suffering from squamous cell carcinoma. The disease had progressed to the point that it was medically necessary to amputate the majority of the man's penis. Before receiving the correct diagnosis, he suffered through more than six months of trying to get prison personnel to address his complaints.

Although he was able to schedule a number of appointments to see medical professionals, those appointments were continually delayed or canceled. The reasons ranged from one doctor who failed to show up for work because he thought that Good Friday was a federal holiday to concerns over whether it was too foggy to allow for the safe transport of prisoners. The current lawsuit alleges that these delays led to the need for the patient to lose the majority of his genitalia.

As this case moves forward, there will be a range of legal issues with which to contend, not the least of which is whether the middleman company hired by the federal government to provide medical treatment to prisoners can shield the government from responsibility in the case. In addition, there is an issue of whether the patient's failure to have his medical condition reviewed by an expert prior to filing the medical malpractice suit. This case is an excellent example of the complexities that can accompany a Massachusetts malpractice claim, especially one aimed at the U.S. government.

Source: NewsObserver.com, "Former Butner inmate suing feds for malpractice over amputated genitalia," Jay Price, Oct. 27, 2012

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