June 30, 2006

Ladies, the doctor is NOT your friend: a warning

My friend Serena, who has and was initially diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer at the age of 41, went to trial to sue her doctor for failure to follow up on her mammograms -- which could have, if properly diagnosed, given her a much better prognosis. From Serena comes this news: All subsequent italics are mine.

"The Verdict came in yesterday and we lost. There were three questions
the jury needed to answer:

1- Do you find that the Defendant JVM, MD, violated the standard of
care with regard to the communication of the results of the January 1998
ANSWER by the jury was “yes”

2- Do you find that the violation in the standard of care by JVM, MD was a proximate (related) cause of any damage suffered by the
ANSWER by the jury was “no’

3- What do you award the Plaintiff in damages? (we never got to this

What this translates as that the jury felt that regardless of whether I
was told about the report that requested follow-up mammogram it would
not have made a difference. I was not to be diagnosed until the cancer
had spread to my liver and bones.

I had a mammogram in 1997 and a follow-up mammogram 6 months later in
1998. In 1998 the radiologist wrote in the report that another follow
up mammogram was requested in another 6 months. Dr. JVM, did not
tell me what was in the report. I was told to come back when I was 40.
I was not told to come back for follow up mammogram.

Our entire case was about that one thing, a failure to communicate to me
about returning for follow-up mammograms and that in the four years
between 1998 and 2002, when I was finally diagnosed, the cancer could
have been caught early.

The Defendant’s lawyers did not focus on one thing. They brought in
nine experts, many of which in my opinion were hired to lie. The nine
included 3 Radiologists, 2 Internists, one Oncologist and 2 Surgeons and
my Gastrointestinal doctor, who was subpoenaed.
They said
- Early Detection was never an option for me
- My breast were too dense to see cancer in a mammogram until it was
advanced. metastasized, incurable, spread all over the body
- I was too young at 36 to have it caught early
- The cancer wasn’t present until 2000
- Follow-up in 1998 1999 2000 etc. would not have shown cancer using
a mammogram
- The mammogram was the only tool to find my cancer. They failed to
mention, ultrasound, needle aspiration, and biopsy.
- My cancer was too aggressive to be caught early
- The spots seen in 1997 and 1998 were in a different locations than
in 2002
The above comments are lies. These doctors partially told the truth.
How is it that the entire world is told about early detection and it
does not apply to me? I have been doing breast exams since I was 19.
Had my first mammogram at 23. Clearly, early detection should have worked.
I slipped through the cracks.

One doctor in particular was particularly insulting. She called my
mammogram picture in 2002 that showed the cancer filled with “bad guys”
the “money view” and her name is Dr. R.Z.

The money view or the money shot is so-called because it is the most
expensive shot in a movie especially in pornography. The phrase is used
more generally, to refer to any shot or sequence about which a person
can say: "my toes curl with pleasure.” It’s also used when paparazzi
get a really personal photo of a celebrity that they sell for lot’s of

Dr. Z. used other layman terms like “name that tune”, “stop the
presses” and “we will try to sustain [Serena]as long as we
can.” Z. lied and told the jury that mammograms are our only tool
to find breast cancer
. On the cover of [this Washington D.C.'s breast doctor's Center for Breast Health newsletter http://www.sibley.org/downloads/BCN_Spring06.pdf there is an entire page about her titled “Breast Biopsy Options” and how
biopsies are used guided by ultrasound when a mammogram or ultrasound
cannot prove whether cancer exists or not. Finally Z. said that
sometimes SHE does not tell patients what recommendations are in their
file because SHE does not believe that patients need to make an informed
decision about their care. Obviously Z. has a God complex.

Our jury ate this up and agreed that I never needed a chance to fight
and that JVM not telling me to follow up would not have changed my
outcome. Well just hammer the nails in my coffin.

We had 4 experts: a radiologist, a surgeon, a internist and a economist.
Though they were very good during cross-examination they were a general
surgeon, a neuro-radiologist etc. They were not exclusively breast
doctors. The Defendant’s experts were 100% devoted to breast work.
The jury believed their interpretation of the truth.

I am frustrated that we didn’t rebuttal the lies the experts mentioned.
I am angry that the jury which was composed of 3 men and 5 women all too
young to even have had a mammogram just sat there and believed this BS.
I was shocked to hear that the jury supported the idea that I did NOT
deserve the right to find the cancer early and have a chance at a cure.

I work with the YSC Young Survival Coalition http://www.youngsurvival
the only international, non-profit network of breast cancer survivors
and supporters dedicated to the concerns and issues that are unique to
young women and breast cancer. The YSC is working with several
magazines on a number of stories for their October Breast Cancer
Awareness Month issues. The writers are looking to speak with young
women who may meet the following criteria:
- cancer was mis-diagnosed because the screening tools failed
- her pregnancy skewed the mammogram, or
- the health care professionals were resistant to conduct further
testing, believing the woman was "too young to have breast cancer
BINGO. I fit all those criteria.

So my fight isn’t over. I’m going to keep on pointing fingers and I’m
naming names!!!

(determined to do more just be “sustained” and more than ever dancing at
my sons’ wedding)
P.S. I have my annual mammogram at [the D.C. Center of Breast Health], July 14th where Z.is the Chief of the Center for Breast Health..... She better not run into

If she runs into me, that so-called expert, she can expect that I will, to the best of my ability as taught to me my the New York City Department of Police, gouge her eyes out. With my fingers. I feel she presents a greater danger to women than any random mugger on a city street. And that, folks, is self-defence.

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