Kaiser Misdiagnosed Cancer, Bungled Hospice Care, Widower Claims
2-13-2014 04:16:00

     LOS ANGELES (CN) - Kaiser doctors misdiagnosed a woman’s cervical cancer until it was terminal and then bungled her hospice care, her widower claims in a Los Angeles County Superior Court complaint.
     Alan Bennett sued Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, Kaiser Foundation Palliative/Hospice Care, Southern California Permanente Medical Group, and five doctors – Haley Shafa, Scott Sanborn, Muthu Chandra, Lawrence Lin and Neeta Ambe-Crain – as personal representative of Phyllis Bennett, deceased. The causes of action include willful misconduct, negligence, fraudulent concealment, constructive fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and medical malpractice.
     According to Bennett’s pro se lawsuit, four Kaiser doctors each misdiagnosed his wife and/or refused further testing and referrals, for a total of nine months before (non-party) Cedars-Sinai Hospital correctly diagnosed her with stage 3 cervical cancer. “Her Cedars surgeon said, ‘Nobody could have missed it.’ Her final nine days, in the care of Kaiser Palliative Care/Hospice were disastrous,” Bennett says.
     In Jan. 2011, Phyllis Bennett had a biopsy done by her gynecologist, Dr. Neeta Ambe-Crain, who diagnosed her with “post-menopausal bleeding,” and referred her, four months later, to Dr. Lawrence Lin, the complaint states.
     Before seeing Dr. Lin, Phyllis saw Dr. Haley Shafa, who “said she would refer her for tests when she received her report from Phyllis’ gynecologist, Dr. Ambe-Crain. Phyllis returned, found her in the corridor, and gave her the report that very same day,” the complaint states.
     Bennett says he and Phyllis waited two months for Dr. Shafa to give them a referral.
     When Phyllis finally saw Dr. Lin in June, “he did not examine her, but at our request, set up a D and C/Hysteroscopy at Los Robles Hospital. He said her hysteroscopy results were normal, though his post-op notes say ‘abnormal cervix.’ He never advised us of that,” Bennett’s complaint states.
     Following Dr. Lin’s diagnosis, in August, of “post-menopausal bleeding,” Bennett says Phyllis saw Dr. Scott Sanborn.
     “I chose Dr. Sanborn, because the appointment desk told me that Dr. Sanborn was an oncologist. When we checked in, the nurse told the same thing to us. We subsequently discovered he is NOT an oncologist,” Bennett writes. He says Dr. Sanborn diagnosed Phyllis with “postmenstrual bleeding.”
     A month later, in Sept. 2011, Phyllis received her correct diagnosis of stage 3 cervical cancer at Cedars-Sinai Hospital, where she was treated for a year, according to the complaint.
     In Sept. 2012, Bennett reports that Phyllis came back under Kaiser’s care when breathing difficulties landed her in Kaiser’s emergency room. He says he and his son were told, at 2:00 a.m., that she was resting comfortably and that they could go home.
     When Bennett called the next morning to check on her “the staff told me there was no Phyllis Bennett there. We raced through the traffic, to find her admitted to Kaiser Hospital. When I found her room, incredibly, her nutrition bag (input) was attached to her gastric bag (output). And she was distressed. No-one could or would tell us when or how that had happened,” his complaint states. (Parentheses in complaint.)
     Bennett says an administrator then told him about Kaiser Palliative/Hospice Care. “She said we’d have a nurse, rabbi, physical therapist, psychological therapist, bather, and be under a doctor’s care, so I chose Kaiser as our hospice care,” he reports.
     “Most of the promised personnel had time conflicts, seldom or never came,” he continues, adding that they sometimes came at the same time by mistake, that a clergyman of an unspecified affiliation came once for a few minutes, and that the rabbi never came.
     Bennett says his family’s woes under Kaiser Palliative/Hospice Care went on to include having Phyllis’s urinary catheter care handled by a male nurse when she had requested a female nurse, profuse bleeding from her catheter which a nurse a doctor both said could not be stopped, and inadequate pain management.
     Bennett says he learned, after Phyllis had ended up back in the emergency room because a doctor had let her eat ice cream, that she had lost the ability to absorb anything through her stomach, including food and the oral pain medication she had been given for several days.
     According to Bennett’s complaint, once Kaiser staff finally authorized intravenous morphine, the sudden flood of morphine into Phyllis’s system, after days of smaller oral doses she couldn’t absorb, rendered her completely unconscious. “Afterward, she never awakened. 36 hours later, she passed away. . . My sons and I never had a chance to speak to her again, or say goodbye,” he writes.
     Bennett alleges he and Phyllis were not fully informed of the consequences of decisions they had to make during her hospice care and that Kaiser withheld Phyllis’s medical records from him.
     He seeks general, special and punitive damages, damages for the loss of care, comfort and society of the decedent, attorney’s fees for himself and costs of suit.