Radiologist prevails in court battle over delayed ovarian cancer diagnosis

A Pennsylvania radiologist, sued by one woman’s widower for allegedly missing an ovarian cancer diagnosis, has prevailed in court after a recent appeal.

Louis McFeeley had originally filed suit against Philadelphia-based Diagnostic Imaging Inc. in October 2014, alleging that one clinician’s failure to pinpoint lesions in his wife's ovaries started a chain of events leading to her eventual death in December of that year. A jury sided with Sushrut Shah, MD, in that battle in 2017, and on Jan. 8, a Pennsylvania Appeals Court reaffirmed that decision.

McFeeley had challenged the jury’s determination based on one radiologist’s testimony in favor of Shah, as the expert witness does not currently practice medicine. However, the three-judge panel landed in favor of the defendant in rejecting the appeal, Law360 reported Wednesday.

"The trial court found nothing about the verdict shocked its sense of justice or required a new trial," the Superior Court wrote in a published opinion. "Mindful of our limited scope of review of a weight of the evidence claim, our obligation is to respect the fact finder's credibility determinations and the weight it accords the evidence."

Kathleen McFeeley first presented to her primary care physician in April 2012 with complaints of gastrointestinal pain, and a colorectal surgeon subsequently ordered CT scans that were performed by Shah, according to court documents. However, the radiologist’s report failed to mention the presence of multiple lesions in the abdomen and pelvis.

The patient returned in December 2012 and a series of tests eventually revealed stage 4 ovarian cancer. Due to such extensive tumors, doctors were unable to complete the hysterectomy instead opting for debulking of the tumor and chemotherapy. McFeeley received bowel surgery to address an obstruction, but eventually died in January 2013 from peritonitis and sepsis at Temple University Hospital.

Her husband alleged that correct interpretation of the original CT scan by Shah would have resulted in prompt referral to an oncologist, optimal treatment of the tumor, and likely successful chemo. A jury, however, sided with Shah, deeming that while he was negligent in failing to report the lesions, his failure did not cause the woman’s death.

Radiologist Seth Glick further testified that her bowel perforation stemmed from intestinal inflammation, rather than complications from surgery. Superior Court judges affirmed that testimony because of Glick’s decades of experience as a radiologist and thousands of colon x-ray interpretations during his career, Law360 noted.