Hypoxia Blamed on Pursuit of Phantom Cancer

Publication:New York Law Journal
Attorney(s):Judith A. Livingston
Practice Area(s):Medical Malpractice / Personal InjuryWrongful Death
Summary:A Westchester, New York medical-malpractice case ended with a $7 million verdict in favor of the family of 33-year-old Theresa Capwell, the New York Law Journal reported. Judith Livingston represented the family.

In August 2000, Ms. Capwell, a homemaker, went to a hospital with searing stomach pains. A doctor told her she might have an inflamed pancreas (pancreatitis) or fluid in the peritoneal cavity, which can cause bloating. The correct diagnosis of pancreatitis was discovered but was never treated. Over the next month, Ms. Capwell's symptoms worsened. On a return trip to the hospital in September, she was admitted, and was told by other doctors that she might have ovarian cancer that may have spread to her liver and lungs.
On September 23, 2000, Ms. Capwell's lung collapsed. She went into respiratory distress and had to be hooked up to a ventilator. She then went into cardiorespiratory arrest; her brain lost oxygen; she fell into a vegetative state. On September 10, 2001, nearly a year after she was admitted, she died.

Judith Livingston argued that Ms. Capwell's pancreatitis got worse as her doctors chased the false diagnosis of ovarian cancer. A simple blood test done during Ms. Capwell's treatment showed that her blood did not contain abnormal amounts of a certain protein that typically shows up in patients with ovarian cancer. Careful analysis of this blood test should have led doctors away from a cancer diagnosis.