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Patient, doctor reach settlement over diagnosis

A Baltimore woman has settled her lawsuit against a Lutherville gastroenterologist she alleged failed to diagnose her colon cancer until it had spread throughout her body.

Annette Goodell and her husband, John, reached the settlement with Dr. David R. Kafonek last month on the day the trial was scheduled to begin in Baltimore County Circuit Court.

Jonathan E. Goldberg of Schochor, Federico & Staton P.A. in Baltimore, the Goodells’ lawyer, said the settlement was confidential and declined to comment.

Ronald U. Shaw of Shaw, Morrow & Joseph P.A. in Hunt Valley, Kafonek’s lawyer, did not return calls seeking comment.

Annette Goodell was referred to Kafonek in March 2002 by her primary care physician and underwent a screening colonoscopy, according to documents. Kafonek removed one polyp during the procedure; a pathology report could not rule out the presence of a tumor, according to court documents.

The complaint alleges Kafonek “did absolutely nothing” and told Goodell to return in five years for a follow-up exam. Filings by the defense claim Kafonek recommended Goodell come back in three months. The complaint states Goodell returned for an “elective follow-up colonoscopy” in June 2002; both sides indicated the exam revealed no evidence of polyps.

Kafonek performed a third colonoscopy in November 2003 and found a single polyp, which pathologists again could not rule out as cancer, according to court records.

Doctors had another explanation, Shaw wrote in court filings.

“[T]he result was thought to be more representative of trauma from the previous biopsy,” he wrote.

The lawsuit claims Kafonek once again “did nothing” and told Goodell to return in a few years. The defense countered the doctor told Goodell to come back in four months. A spring 2004 colonoscopy yielded two polyps but no signs of cancer, according to court documents.

Goodell had a fifth colonoscopy in November 2006, where Kafonek found “a mass he thought was suspicious for colon cancer,” according to defense filings, a fact confirmed by pathologists. A surgeon removed part of Goodell’s colon later that month and she began chemotherapy treatments in December, according to court records.

Goodell returned to her primary care physician in May 2008 with lower abdominal pain. A CT scan showed evidence of cancer, and Goodell was referred to a gynecological oncologist, according to court records. She had surgery to remove her uterus, ovaries and Fallopian tubes, and tests showed her cancer had spread, “resulting in an ominous prognosis,” the lawsuit states.

The plaintiffs alleged that Kafonek should have performed the “necessary tests and studies” from the time of the first colonoscopy to rule out cancer.

“Due to…Kafonek’s ongoing and continuing negligence, the cancer was left to grow, extend and ultimately metastasize,” the lawsuit states.

Kafonek’s practice is Razzak, Tucker, Kafonek & Hansen P.A., which was also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Goodell, et al v. kafonek, et al

Court:

Baltimore County Circuit Court

Case No.:

03C09001691

Outcome:

Confidential settlement on trial date

Dates:

Incident: March 2002 to May 2008

Suit filed: Feb. 13, 2009

Settlement: Sept. 21, 2010

Plaintiffs’ Attorneys:

Jonathan E. Goldberg and Jonathan Schochor of Schochor, Federico & Staton P.A. in Baltimore

Defendants’ Attorneys:

Ronald U. Shaw and Thomas C. Morrow of Shaw, Morrow & Joseph P.A. in Towson

Count:

Negligence