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Medical malpractice - Dermatology - Failure to timely diagnose skin cancer - Two-year delay permits progression of melanoma - Cancer metastasizes, spreading to lungs and brain - Loss of chance of cure.

Los Angeles County, California

This action was brought by the male plaintiff, in his mid-40s in August of ________ when he presented to the defendant dermatologist and alleged requested that she examine two moles, which the plaintiff maintained had changed in size and appearance. The plaintiff contended that the defendant performed no diagnostic studies on the moles, but instead reassured him that they were normal in appearance.

The plaintiff and his wife testified that he returned to the defendant dermatologist’s office on several more occasions for the express purpose of having the defendant again examine the moles, which were located on his neck and back. The plaintiff contended that on each occasion he was reassured that the moles did not possess the characteristics potentially indicative of cancer.

In August of ________, however, the mole on the plaintiff’s neck was noticeably changing and increasing in size. The plaintiff pointed this change out to the defendant, who at this point determined that a biopsy of the mole was warranted. The biopsy was positive for malignant melanoma. Treatment was immediately started, but several months later it was determined that the cancer had metastasized to the lungs and brain.

The plaintiff alleged that the defendant dermatologist deviated from the standard of care in failing to perform diagnostic testing on both moles, which the plaintiff claimed had been brought to her attention two years earlier. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant’s alleged negligence precluded earlier diagnosis and treatment, which at that time could well have afforded him an excellent opportunity for cure. The plaintiff claimed extensive economic damages, including damages for lost income. The plaintiff’s wife asserted a claim for loss of consortium.

The defendant physician denied negligence and disputed the plaintiff’s contention that the moles were in any way irregular or altered in appearance until August of ________, at which time an immediate excision of the mole on the neck was undertaken.

The jury found for the defendant.

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