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VA hospital investigated for not properly diagnosing man's cancer

Many people are apprehensive about seeking medical treatment. While in some cases, this is due to fear of what they might find out is wrong with them -- despite the fact that this would allow them to receive proper treatment -- others fear seeking treatment for the opposite reason: that doctors will be unable to accurately diagnose what is wrong with them.

For many patients, physicians' failure to diagnose serious diseases is one of their worst nightmares. In one recent case, the family of a man who died of liver cancer is wondering what their next steps will be after a government investigation determined that their family member was not diagnosed with advanced liver cancer.

The man, who officials will only say was in his 60s, died last year. Because of the advanced nature of his cancer, it isn't likely that his life would have been saved or even significantly prolonged had a correct diagnosis been made. However, treatment and palliative care options that might have been presented to him were not given -- despite repeated visits to Veterans Affairs medical clinics.

The investigation also found significant delays in coordinating referrals for the patient, giving appropriate follow-up care, and addressing his pain from the cancer. The 16-page report on the man's situation will be analyzed by the service area responsible for the man's care; his family will then be informed of the findings.

For many grieving family members, however, the idea of disclosure after the fact might not be enough. In some cases, family members will want to seek compensation for the loss of their loved one.

Source: Erie Times-News, "Report: Erie VA hospital failed to diagnose cancer," Sept. 29, 2013

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