You Have Brain Cancer … Psych!

I have heard of diagnoses gone wrong, but this takes the cake. Mark Templin of Montana visited the Fort Harrison VA Medical Center in early 2009 because of chest pain. They put in a stent, but a week later Templin began experiencing headaches, memory issues, and problems with his vision and speech. Templin was sent to various specialists, including an ophthalmologist and a neuroradiologist. The specialists thought it possible Templin had had a stroke. Other possibilities included a brain tumor. The neuroradiologist concluded that further testing would be needed to make a definitive diagnosis.

The physician at the VA, however, somehow decided Templin had brain cancer and told him and his family that he had about six months to live. The physician, Dr. Patrick Morrow, alleges that he actually told Templin further tests were required, but Templin’s medical records do not reflect that. Templin and his family believed without a doubt that Templin would die of brain cancer. Templin opted not to undergo cancer treatment and instead was put on two cancer drugs and set up with hospice care. Templin quit his job and made final arrangements, including paying for his funeral and having a “final” birthday party. He sunk into depression, but after several months his condition improved. In the summer Templin had another CT scan and was told he had suffered from some small strokes and did not have brain cancer. Later in the year Templin had an MRI that provided a final conclusion that he had suffered not from brain cancer but from a stroke.

As you can imagine, Templin sued for negligence, and this week U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy awarded Templin nearly $60,000. Broken down, the award amounts to $500 per day for the time period from initial misdiagnosis to April 15, 2009, then $300 per day until he received his new diagnosis. The award also includes the cost of his “final” birthday party as well as the funeral.

For more on this story, see this article.