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A jury in Yakima, WA, has returned a unanimous, record verdict in a medical malpractice case for delayed diagnosis of prostate cancer.
Dan Peterson, MD, an internist from Yakima, was found negligent for failure to act upon rising, abnormal PSA tests and ordered to pay $4.5 million. PSA tests are a common blood test routinely used in men over age 50 to screen for possible prostate cancer. "Peterson saw all the red flags but did nothing. Help was just a phone call away," says the plaintiff’s attorney Reed Schifferman. Peterson began screening Carl Pettijohn of Yakima in 1993 when Pettijohn was 52. Each year thereafter, the PSA level rose and laboratory results were twice flagged as abnormal by the reporting medical lab. The last PSA with Peterson was July 1996. Despite continuing to see Pettijohn, no further PSA checks were done. Peterson explained that he intended to do one at the next annual physical exam.
Pettijohn self-referred to a urologist in 1998 for a kidney stones checkup. The urologist also did a routine PSA test that was abnormal. The cancer was found a short time later and the prostate was surgically removed. By that time, the cancer was no longer confined to the prostate. The verdict is believed to be the largest verdict in King County against a doctor, and the county’s second largest medical malpractice verdict.