Our client was a highly respected and loved college professor and a widower with several successful adult children. He was treated for three (3) years with his primary care physician for increasing fatigue. His primary care physician ran blood tests and diagnosed him with iron deficiency anemia and a vitamin B-12 deficiency, but did not investigate any of the other possible and more severe causes of severe anemia. (Medical Note: Middle aged men generally do not suffer from anemia, iron deficiency or B-12 deficiency unless there is an intestinal disease causing slow blood loss such as an ulcer or intestinal cancer.) His primary care physician’s only treatment plan was frequent B-12 shots and iron supplements. The medical standard of care, however, required him to make a referral to a gastroenterologist or do a digital-rectal examination to detect blood loss in the stool. Upper and lower GI studies would have been ordered to look for the cause of the blood loss and anemia.
After three years the patient began to lose weight. His primary care physician investigated the unexplained loss of weight and quickly found out that he had an advanced stomach cancer. Unfortunately, the cancer was too late to treat and the patient died within nine months from preventable stomach cancer.
Suit was brought against the primary care physician in Wheeling, West Virginia, on the textbook theory that iron deficiency anemia in a middle-aged man must be evaluated as bleeding that could be an early sign of gastrointestinal cancer (stomach) cancer. After several days of trial, a successful settlement was reached on behalf of the Adler Estate.