Kentucky mom Kim Johnson was terrified that her own brush with death had finally come. Her mom had died a number of years ago. She and her family had watched her mother’s health fail during a slow decline, and she remembered the emotional pain it caused everyone else. Could it be her turn? When she discovered a lump in her right breast during a self-check, she scheduled a doctor’s visit immediately and was sent in for a mammogram.
Later, she received a letter from the Fleming County Hospital Radiology Department. It was time to read what was inside. The letter read, “No evidence of cancer.”
According to evidence later obtained by the family and her lawyers, there had been a grievous error made by hospital staff. The X-rays showed signs of cancer, but no additional tests were ordered. The hospital staff erroneously sent her the letter she received instead of one that asked her to return to more tests based on the evidence on hand. The pain became progressively worse as time wore on, so Johnson asked for a second opinion ten months later.
The cancer was detected successfully this time, but late enough that the new doctors didn’t know if she could be saved.
Now, Johnson contends that the hospital staff at Fleming County Hospital went out of their way to cover up the mistake that might cost Johnson her life.
Most victims of a misdiagnosis will approach a medical malpractice law firm for guidance — even if they don’t intend to launch a lawsuit to recoup damages. Not every case is a winner, but medical malpractice attorneys have a general idea of what potential clients might want or what they might think is worth fighting for (if anything).
Johnson did this. Her lawyers hired their own forensics expert to find evidence of malpractice — and what they did find was nothing short of breathtaking. At least two hospital staff members edited Johnson’s records electronically and deleted any evidence of the letter she had received in the mail. Additional “fake” letters were placed into the electronic system. These falsified documents asked Johnson to return for additional tests. Doctors from Fleming County testified that Johnson was at fault — not them.
Hospital lawyers contended that the forensics expert’s testimony was not to be trusted because the electronic system employed by the hospital was no longer in use. They did acknowledge a small clerical error by an employee who mistook Johnson for another patient. But that clerical error is exactly what caused the delay in treatment and put Johnson’s life at risk.
Perhaps not so curiously, the hospital hired a forensics expert of their own to review the same evidence as Johnson’s attorneys’ expert — and whatever was found didn’t make its way into court.
Johnson’s husband Delbert said, “I tend to put my trust in doctors and professionals, the system even. But they failed Kim and tried to hide it.”
Referring to electronic data, Pennsylvania attorney Matthew Keris said, “The cases are literally doubling in complexity because of these issues.”