HMO Clinic’s Improper Care Produced $2.7 Million Verdict: Cancer Not Detected

June 4, 2001 / 7:21 am

MIAMI (June 14, 2001) — The law firm of Colson Hicks Eidson today announced that a Florida State Court jury before the 11th Judicial Circuit Court awarded David Francisco and his wife a $2.7 million verdict—for the misdiagnosis of tongue cancer—against United Healthcare of Florida (formerly known as CAC-Ramsey), and Ears, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist Dr. Jorge De Cardenas yesterday.

Although Francisco visited the HMO clinic on several occasions complaining of lesions on his tongue, he was denied a biopsy despite exhibiting all the characteristic symptoms for cancer. Due to improper screening, the cancer advanced to a point where he had to undergo surgery to remove 75% of his tongue; his quality of life and life expectancy were significantly diminished. Francisco now has a life expectancy of three to five years.

“Doctors at the HMO did not biopsy, even though all the red flags for cancer were there,” said Franciso’s attorney and a partner at Colson Hicks Eidson. “I am concerned that because of the nature of the quota contracts between HMO clinics like this one and doctors, patients are not provided with proper care. I would like to stress to patients to be diligent about seeking proper care when a growth is detected.”

Francisco, in his sixties at the time he experienced an abscess on his tongue, went to see his primary care physician, who then referred him to De Cardenas. The referral form included a recommendation for a biopsy. De Cardenas, under contract with the HMO, neglected to order a biopsy until, after several visits and months later, the patient pleaded for one. The biopsy returned with a diagnosis of cancer. Francisco then had to have 75% of his tongue removed, had to have a portion of the skin on his arm grafted to make a new ‘tongue’, and then had to have a skin graft from his thigh to his arm.

“Had the ENT doctor ordered a biopsy as was originally recommended, Mr. Francisco would have had minimal surgery and would have not lost his sense of taste and his ability to speak,” added Colson Hicks Eidson’s representative.

A Miami jury yesterday agreed that had a biopsy been taken, Francisco’s cancer would have been detected earlier and his treatment would have been less invasive and his life expectancy would have been normal.

In addition to the $2.7 million verdicts awarded to the 74-year-old Miami man, the court will later award attorney’s fees and court costs to be paid by United Healthcare.

Deborah Gander of Colson Hicks Eidson tried the case.

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