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Lawsuit Alleging Doctor Withheld Pathology Findings Allowed to Proceed

Patient claims doctor concealed report indicating no signs of prostate cancer

Published: February 23, 2012

A patient's lawsuit alleging that the doctor who removed his supposedly cancerous prostate suppressed pathology findings that would have made the procedure unnecessary can go forward, an Oklahoma appeals court has ruled.

At the center of the case is a surgical pathologist's medical report - discovered by the plaintiff nearly 5 years after the procedure was done - that allegedly found no sign of cancerous cells in the patient's prostate. The plaintiff, Bob O. Parris, claims that the doctor who removed his prostate never advised him of those findings, and was negligent in conducting the biopsy and examination that resulted in his cancer diagnosis.

In 1999, Mr. Parris was being treated by Barney Limes, MD, a physician with Oklahoma City, Okla.-based Saint Anthony Hospital. In September of that year, Dr. Limes advised Mr. Parris that a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test he had undergone had come back positive, which was an indicator of prostate cancer. As a result, Dr. Limes recommended a biopsy of Mr. Parris' prostate, which Dr. Limes performed in October.

The following day, pathologist James Brinkworth, MD, examined the biopsy specimens and reported that Mr. Parris' prostate had adenocarcinoma and high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia. After reviewing the report, Dr. Limes told Mr. Parris that he had "highly aggressive" Stage II prostate cancer and that his prostate must be completely removed. Dr. Limes also urged Mr. Parris to seek a second opinion. One day later, Shelby Barnes, MD, of Urology Associates Inc., gave Mr. Parris the same diagnosis and recommendation, based on Dr. Limes' report. In October, Mr. Parris underwent surgery to remove his prostate, and continued to receive treatment, including frequent PSA tests, from Dr. Barnes for the next 5 years.

On Sept. 2, 2004, Mr. Parris obtained for the first time the medical records related to his 1999 prostatectomy. According to court documents, the records included an Oct. 26, 1999 report from surgical pathologist Stan Shrago, MD, to Dr. Barnes. In his report, Dr. Shrago allegedly advised Dr. Barnes that he had examined Mr. Parris' removed prostate 3 days after the prostatectomy and found no sign of cancerous cells. Dr. Shrago's report also indicated that he had discussed these findings with Dr. Barnes on the day of his original examination and again on the day he issued his report. According to Mr. Parris' complaint, Dr. Barnes never advised him of Dr. Shrago's findings.

Mr. Parris and his wife Carol ultimately sued Dr. Barnes, Dr. Brinkworth and Dr. Limes, along with Saint Anthony Hospital and Urology Associates Inc. for malpractice. Among other claims, the pair alleged that the defendants were negligent in conducting the biopsy and examination that resulted in Mr. Parris' cancer diagnosis, had "negligently mismarked, misidentified or misread" pathology slides of the biopsy, were negligent in the performance of his radical prostatectomy, and that Mr. Barnes and his group had "intentionally concealed the information that [Mr. Parris'] prostate was cancer-free," which prevented him from discovering this negligence until September 2004. A summary judgment was granted for the defendants. The Oklahoma court of civil appeals decision reversed that judgment and allowed Mr. Parris' claim to proceed.

Attorneys for the defendants did not respond to requests for comment. Mr. Parris, who acted as his own legal counsel, could not be reached for comment.

Mark McGraw

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