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Doctors blamed for retired lawmaker's missed cancer diagnosis

Any medical professional can make a mistake that endangers a Pitt County patient's life. It would be a mistake to assume patients with the best health coverage plans are immune to doctor and hospital negligence.

A retired U.S. congressman is planning to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against doctors, who allegedly didn't follow through on suspicions about a pancreatic lesion. Nine-term Republican congressman Steven C. LaTourette was seen by a physician at George Washington University Hospital three years ago.

The discovery of lesion led to a consultation with a physician from the Office of Attending Physician, but no follow-up studies were recommended. LaTourette received a pancreatic cancer diagnosis in 2014, two years after the former GOP lawmaker's lesion reportedly was discussed and dismissed. Court documents described the retired congressman's condition as "grave."

LaTourette and his wife have asked a federal court to permit him to give a videotaped testimony now for a lawsuit that remains in the planning stages. The ex-legislator is not expected to be able to testify in the future due to the cancer deteriorating his mental and physical abilities.

Members of Congress have been criticized for railing against the Affordable Care Act, while taking advantage of specially-provided medical care by government doctors. The former congressman's attorney is hoping the federal government, LaTourette's ex-employer, will step up to "resolve" the case.

The Office of Attending Physician has had glowing internal and external reviews, but this isn't the first time OAP has been accused of malpractice. Another claim was filed by the widow of North Carolina Senator John East, claiming her husband committed suicide due to the OAP's failure to detect a problem with the man's thyroid. A court ruled doctors did not act carelessly.

A doctor's failure to diagnose cancer can place a patient in a life-threatening situation. Patients and families harmed by negligence may file claims to recover damages.

Source: The Washington Post, "Former GOP congressman fighting cancer intends to sue government doctors for malpractice," Justin Wm. Moyer, May 28, 2015

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