Cases do not normally end like this.


A cardiologist implanted a pacemaker. He ordered a follow-up check X-ray to check the leads and make sure there were no complications. A second cardiologist checked the films and discharged the patient from the hospital. The radiologist’s report noted the placement of the pacemaker leads. It also noted a potential lung nodule and recommended follow-up X-rays.


Four months later, the patient returned to the original cardiologist’s office. The cardiologist never shared any information about the lung nodule. No follow-up chest X-ray was ordered.


One year later, the patient was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died 23 months after the pacemaker was placed.


The man’s wife sued the cardiologists for medical negligence. It argued that failure to relay the radiologist’s message resulted in a “loss of chance” of survival for her husband. The wife identified an oncologist as the sole medical expert.


The cardiologists filed for summary judgment. They argued that Alaska law mandates an expert must be board certified in the same specialty as the defendant. Here, the defendants were cardiologists. The expert was an oncologist. The cardiologists also submitted an affidavit certifying they met the standard of care for cardiologists.


The affidavit stated the cardiologist who reviewed of the x-ray was not required to perform a thorough radiological evaluation of the man’s overall health. The cardiologist who performed the surgery explained that he did not have a duty to go back through the entire chart and check all other care providers’ medical records.


The chest x-ray review by the other cardiologist had already confirmed the pacemaker implantation did not have complications. The purpose of the follow-up visit was to check the pacemaker, discuss chest pain, and discuss the results of a nuclear stress test.


The Supreme Court of Alaska ruled in favor of the cardiologists.


Here, the radiologist should have picked up the phone and alerted the ordering physician of the unusual finding and need for follow-up. I do not know if the radiologist was also sued; but typically, every person whose name was on such a chart would be sued and someone would be writing a check for delay in diagnosis.


Cases do not normally end like this.


Hagen v. Strobel, 2015 WL 4167381 (Alaska, Jul 10, 2015)