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$1.5 million awarded to family of cancer victim

A jury awarded $1.5 million to the family of a man who died of cancer that was originally diagnosed as nonmalignant.

Paul Vaughan visited his physician for a growth that was initially confined to his right middle finger. The physician referred him to a hand surgeon, who removed the growth and sent it to Pathology Sciences Medical Group.

The growth was only tested for one kind of cancer – carcinoma – but not for melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. As a result, Vaughn was told that his cancer was nonmalignant.

Vaughan’s problem persisted and he was presumed to have developed an infection. However, when he began to develop swelling in his elbow and under his arm, a second biopsy was taken.

The second analysis found a melanoma. By the time the results from the second round of testing had come back, the cancer had already spread to his lungs, liver and spleen.

Vaughan was treated aggressively at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, but to no avail. He died on Jan. 31, 2005, at age 51.

The trial took four days and the jury deliberated for one hour before returning their verdict, which is just $200,000 less than the maximum award allowed in Virginia medical malpractice cases.

Jon Thornton, one of two attorneys representing the family, said that the jury “knew from the evidence that this was entirely preventable. This should not have happened to this family.” He added that Vaughan “didn’t want others to go through what he went though.”

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