The radiology fellow and the avoidable lawsuit (Coverys)


Patricia Buckley was a retired teacher who lived most of her life in the midwest, but had recently moved to Dayton, Ohio.

She shared a small 1-bedroom apartment with her trusted companion of many years - a parrot named Mr. Gatsby.

Most nights she would watch movies, but occasionally she enjoyed hosting small dinner parties.

One morning, as Patricia was cleaning her house, she suddenly felt tired and dizzy, and as the day progressed, she felt more achy and developed a slight cough.

“I hope I’m not getting sick right before my trip to Europe,” she thought aloud, as she picked up the phone to make an appointment with her primary care physician.

The next day, Patricia arrived for her appointment with her primary physician, Dr. Larson.

The conversation was relaxed.

Patricia said she was mostly worried about the fatigue.

She explained, “I’m going to visit my daughter and my lovely grandson in Europe for the summer, and I'm pretty sure I won't be able to keep up with him or help around the house if I’m exhausted like this.”

Dr. Larson explained that she thought it was most likely a viral infection, but that she needed to get some blood tests and a chest X-ray just in case Patricia had developed a walking pneumonia or something called parrot fever - both of which could be treated with antibiotics.

Patricia felt reassured and headed out to get the lab work and chest X-ray done.

A few hours later, an overnight radiology fellow, Dr. Samir Patel, was reading the chest X-ray of patient 7322881.

He didn’t know Patricia - he just knew her medical record number.

The reason for the chest X-ray?

Two words “rule-out pneumonia”.

He squinted at the image and sipped his Chamomile tea.

No signs of pneumonia, but he noticed a small oval shape on her left upper lobe.

“Could this be a tumor? Or tuberculosis?”, he wondered as dictated the report.

“Findings: No evidence of pneumonia. 1-centimeter oval lesion in the left upper lobe.

No hilar adenopathy...“ he finished up.