Quest Diagnostics' DEADLY Errors

Steve Murphy (Voiceover): Mark Twain once said that “figures don’t lie, but liars figure…” and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce along with the American Medical Association know how to make figures lie by falsely promoting untrue facts:

ON-SCREEN TEXT: “Skyrocketing Health Care and Related Malpractice lawsuits increase insurance premiums.”

“Doctors are abandoning their practices.”

“Billions of dollars are wasted on defensive medicine.”

“Too many frivolous lawsuits and out-of-control juries.”

Steve Murphy (Voiceover): But the AMA’s own award-winning Journal of the American Medical Association published an article with the real story, the real facts on healthcare related and medical malpractice lawsuits and they’re shocking:

“106,000 patients die each year from the negative effects of medication.”

“Another 80,000 patients die each year due to complications from infections incurred in hospitals.”

“20,000 deaths per year occur from Lab Misdiagnosis mistakes and other hospital errors.”

“12,000 people die each year as a result of unnecessary surgery.”

“7,000 medical malpractice deaths per year are attributed to medication errors in hospitals.”

That’s, “225,000 deaths each year… due to medical negligence of some nature and Healthcare Related Mistakes,” and the number is growing.

Today, the Insider Exclusive goes behind the headlines to examine how one well-known, national laboratory, Quest Diagnostics, made a near fatal mistake by mixing up a biopsy sample with that of another patient. That major mistake caused an 8-month delay in receiving life-saving treatment for Maria Rapio for a deadly cancer, a high grade sarcoma, which is a malignant and aggressive tumor. The lab’s inexcusable error changed the once vibrant, active Maria forever. During that critical 8-month delay her infection spread to the bone so the doctor had to put in a metal rod in her leg. She suffered from an infection from this procedure and was hospitalized for over a month. Now her leg has been left severely deformed and she has to constantly go for check-ups to make sure her tumor has not spread. Had the correct diagnosis originally been given she would have saved these precious 8 months which for this type of tumor, could be life altering.

Today the Insider Exclusive shows how Maria’s lawyers, Stewart Greenberg and Mark Stone, partners at the law firm of Greenberg, Stone & Urbano, are getting justice for Maria. They have seen many patients suffer needless injury and because of that they are driven to help people who have been harmed by incompetent and negligent healthcare professionals. Their goal: not only to get justice for Maria but to make medicine safer and more accountable just like Quest Diagnostics publicly state on their website “Honesty and integrity are the cornerstones of our corporate philosophy…we strive to do the right thing when it comes to caring for our patients.”

Hi, I’m Steve Murphy and this is the Insider Exclusive live from Miami, Florida at the law firm of Greenberg, Stone & Urbano.

TITLE: The Insider Exclusive presents- Quest Diagnostics: DEADLY Errors

Steve Murphy: It’s my great pleasure to introduce Stewart Greenberg and Mark Stone to the show. Welcome to the show.

Stewart Greenberg: Thank you, Steve.

Mark Stone: Nice to see you.

Steve: Tell us a little bit about your firm. What type of practices does your firm get involved in?

Stewart: We handle cases of people who have been seriously injured or have lost loved ones from the negligence of others.

Steve: …like catastrophic cases and this sort of thing?

Stewart: Correct.

Steve: You have 6 offices in Florida, don’t you? Where are they?

Stewart: We have offices in south Florida, central Florida, and in the panhandle.

Steve: I always ask this of every lawyer that we have on the show…why did you become a lawyer, Mark?

Mark: I became a lawyer… my father was a judge, and was one of the youngest judges appointed by the governor at that time to become a juvenile court judge. So, he made his mark in the law and I had an older brother who went to law school and I thought that would be something that would be challenging and rewarding.

Steve: How about you Stewart?

Stewart: I like working with people and in our practice we get to spend a lot of time with our clients over many years…and over 31 years we still have relationships.

Steve: The case we’re going to discuss today is kind of an unusual case because it’s a misdiagnosis case not necessarily by a doctor or a hospital but by a lab.

Stewart: Correct, a national lab…

Steve: Can you tell us a little bit about this case?

Stewart: Sure. We represent a lovely 60 year-old lady who you’ll get to meet and she had a small little bump on her leg. She went to the doctor and the doctor decided to excise it, to remove it…sent it out to Quest Laboratories locally here in South Florida. It came back that it was fine. That was in October in 2007. In May of 2008, she was called by the doctor and told, ‘listen, the lab thinks they made a mistake and they mixed up your specimen with someone else’s and they had to take another sample from her leg and she came back having a very, very aggressive form of sarcoma, cancer.

Steve: How would they have known that they had misplaced, or mixed it up?

Stewart: It’s interesting you asked that. We’re trying to find that out now through discovery. Probably, what happened was the other patient who was told she had cancer was eventually rechecked where they found no cancer. We don’t know who that patient is. We don’t know if she understands the whole mix-up or not.

Steve: You don’t know because they won’t tell you?

Stewart: They won’t tell us. That’s correct.

Steve: It would seem to me that they would want to clear this up, right?

Stewart: Well, it would seem to anybody that they would want to clear it up. What they’re trying to do is hide the ball.

Steve: Yeah, they’re trying to hide their mistake.

Stewart: That’s correct.

Steve: So she had another biopsy done and what happened?

Stewart: As a result of that, unfortunately, she had to get major surgery in her leg where they actually inserted a steel rod in her leg because of the extent of the injuries from the cancer. That became infected then she later spent a month in the hospital and she has a resulting, horrible scar. She’s in pain. She’s at risk for cancer for the rest of her life where she wouldn’t have been otherwise. She can’t work any longer so she’s really incapacitated. She uses a walker.

Steve: The 8 months where she thought she didn’t have a cancer in her leg, her leg was gradually getting worse, wasn’t it?

Stewart: Yes it was.

Steve: …and as a result of this delay of 8 months, what is the damage that is done to her?

Stewart: Had this been removed properly and diagnosed properly then she probably would have never needed the insertion of the steel rod. She would have never had the infection. Her risk of future cancer would have been much, much, much lower. And she would probably be back at work and being a grandma and a mom and enjoying life.

Steve: Mark, tell us a little bit about Maria. What kind of women was she prior to this horrible incident?

Mark: Maria was, and still is, a very unique woman. She’s a warrior. She’s a fighter. She’s got a zest for life that really is uncommon. I don’t see that in a lot of people. She’s self-made. She’s a beautician. She runs her own business. She is a successful person. Unfortunately, this injury which was completely preventable has taken just a tremendous toll on her life from a physical toll to an emotional standpoint. She was a woman who would go out, she would socialize…she loved life. That has been literally ripped away from her at this point.

Steve: I understand Stewart that she raised four kids.

Stewart: That’s correct.

Steve: Basically, by herself. Is that correct?

Stewart: Correct.

Steve: She originally came from Italy. As a result of this she can’t work now, can’t she?

Stewart: She can’t work and she really has trouble taking care of herself. She needs help.

Steve: Let’s bring on Maria and her daughter right now. It is my great pleasure to introduce Maria and Elizabeth to the show. Welcome to the show.

Maria/Elizabeth: Thank you.

Steve: Take us back to that day Maria when you learned…well, when you initially discovered there was a bump on your leg. You went to your dermatologist, right?

Maria: Yes.

Steve: ...and your dermatologist took a biopsy, correct?

Maria: Yes.

Steve: ...sent it to the lab.

Maria: Yes.

Steve: The results came back soon thereafter.

Maria: …everything is good…everything is fine…no problem.

Steve: …but, then what happened?

Maria: What happened was that still after that it was still growing. So, I go to my doctor and he says not to worry about it- that everything is fine. Okay, I don’t worry. So, after 7 months they call me saying it’s urgent…

Steve: Had your leg been looking worse and worse?

Maria: Yes.

Steve: Had you been not able to walk as much?

Maria: No, no, yes I could walk. The doctor says everything’s fine…it’s just some pimple there that will go away. So when they call me, saying it was an emergency, to see the doctor, I go. He tells me, ‘…listen, we have to do another biopsy…’

Steve: Here’s my question: Why did they call you in if they didn’t know anything at that time?

Maria: …because the laboratory told them that they had made a mistake. After that, everything became like a dream. I go Saturday to see the doctor where they draw out my blood. After, they send me to the specialist for the legs and then the doctor took a…radiografia?

Elizabeth: X-ray.

Maria: And they said that tomorrow I have to go to the hospital because we have to open and see what happened there…I never expected what would happen to me!

Steve: Did you ask the doctors what was going on?

Maria: Yes! They said don’t worry, looks good.

Steve: Did you go with her?

Maria: No, go with my friend, a very good friend. So, that happened Saturday. Monday, I go to the doctor and Tuesday they operate on me. Oh my God, terrible…

Elizabeth: From one day to the next…

Steve: But they told you that you need an operation, why?

Maria: …because they wanted to see what was there but they never told me that a big mistake was made in the laboratory.

Steve: They haven’t told you yet.

Maria: Nothing! It didn’t even cross my mind.

Steve: It seems kind of odd that the doctor would say that he needs to operate without giving you any reason why.

Maria: Why? They said nothing to me. Only that there was some mistake or something…they cover each other, you know?

Steve: Yeah.

Maria: So, I go to see the doctor that operated on me and he said to go see him after 7 days. I go but the doctor didn’t see him. I saw the assistant and they tell me that everything looks fine. They said that in case we call you 3 days from now, because they need like 14 days to resend samples to the laboratory to check if everything is fine…and if don’t call you then everything is fine. But if we call you come right away. They called me.

And when I went there, I never expected in my life to hear what they said to me. When I go to the doctor, he sits me down, doesn’t even prepare me…I go with my friend because she’s with me all the time, and I sit there and ask, “what happened doctor, is everything ok?” He says, “No, you have cancer,” like that.

After that, I said, “What!” My friend starts to cry and I start to cry and I ask the doctor what had happened, why do I have cancer now? They took these little samples from me like 7-8 months ago and now you say I have cancer. He says, “Yes, but I cannot tell you anything else. You have to go to a specialist now. I don’t know the name in English for cancer specialists…so they send me to another doctor. When I go to the doctor at Mercy hospital he doesn’t make an operation…again, I went with my friend because she’s married to a doctor and she knows all of these things I don’t understand. When I sit there, I asked so what do I do now? He says, “Yeah, you have cancer, you’re lucky…because they gave your test to another person so you didn’t have to suffer for 7 months.”

I said, “Doctor, you’re telling me now that I’m lucky. I have cancer and I don’t know what is happening with my leg now…I don’t want to see you anymore. I want to see a specialist, the most important specialist for my legs to find out what happened.”

After that I go to a specialist. Thank God that this doctor was good. He said they needed to do a big operation. You want to see my leg? I had to have 4 operations! Look at that, look at that…. 9 months I can’t walk.

Steve: You have a metal rod in…

Maria: I have a metal rod, yes, all this for nothing. They just made a big mistake with me. This destroyed my life because I am a very nice person. I work, I dance, I love my family… I love my grandchild who was born the same month when they did the big operation on me. I mean and after that…what I suffered at the hospital…infections, a lot of things happened to me…what happens to me now?

Steve: Elizabeth, how have you seen your mom’s life change over this period of time?

Elizabeth: Drastically. She’s always been a woman who takes very good care of herself. She goes to the doctor, checks up…and if this would have been dealt with appropriately from the beginning…

Steve: … it wouldn’t have been this bad.

Elizabeth: …we wouldn’t have had any of this happen. It would have been treated as a pre-cancerous cell usually gets treated and she would have continued living a normal life but due to this mistake by the laboratory its changed our lives completely. I mean I was pregnant 5 months when this started. My son was born and like she mentioned she had surgery a week later and it was just downhill from there. Five surgeries later she got an infection at the hospital. You know what it is to sit in a chair for nine months with one leg up. I mean we had to fly family in from Italy to help us take care of her because it was too much. Her sister took turns. The expenses have been astronomical. And the whole tradition of our family has changed. She is no longer able to be that mother who made Sunday lunches for the family anymore. She can’t go anywhere without the walker, wheelchair, or some sort of electrical device to help her.

Steve: You have to use this walker all of the time, right?

Maria: Yes.

Steve: What do you miss most about your life before?

Maria: My life before, like my daughter said, family…I love to dance. I can’t dance anymore. I had a normal life, beautiful. I was just a happy person, many friends; we’d go out. I used to have a boyfriend but after this I said, no more. I can’t give satisfaction to a man.

Elizabeth: Her self-esteem is low.

Maria: My self-esteem is down completely.

Steve: What do you see as justice for your case?

Elizabeth: At this point, I mean…

Steve: You have huge medical bills, don’t you?

Elizabeth: …medical bills, her lifestyle has changed…

Steve: You can’t work anymore.

Maria: No, no work. I can’t, I can’t. I have a lot of debts now.

Elizabeth: Now we’re full of debt. We all have help with the light bill and the mortgage…some sort of relief…

Steve: What has been the response of Quest Diagnostics for this whole thing?

Elizabeth: Absolutely none.

Steve: …because on their website it says, ‘we really care about our patients.’ Do you believe that?

Maria: I don’t believe anything, nothing. They’re liars, big liars!

Steve: This question is for the both of you: If you had a message to send to the people who made this mistake, Quest Diagnostics, what would that message be?

Elizabeth: Get your infrastructure in order and don’t make these kinds of mistakes because you ruin lives every time you do.

Maria: Every time they make a big mistake…you can never trust no doctor and no laboratory. Try to test 3 times at the laboratory. Try 3 different times because they can make big mistakes! I’m not alone. Many people are down from the mistakes made by this laboratory. Big mistake!

Steve: I want to thank you both for being on this show. This message is going to get out and it’s our best wishes for you.

Well, when you hear it from the horse’s mouth Maria really says what she means. This is a terrible case. How are you pursuing this case? What are you doing to win this case? What’s your strategy?

Stewart: We’re trying to show how this administrative error took place. We’ve taken the deposition of the president of the local Quest lab who really had no idea how the operation even works. Now we’re trying to…the court has given us permission to film how they process over 15,000 samples a night and they’ve appealed it. So once we win that appeal we’re going to go in and show how this error had occurred.

Steve: Because once you have that information, you can…because it’s a national laboratory, they process a large amount of biopsies and all kinds of tests and there is bound to be some errors. But some of these errors can be fatal, near fatal.

Stewart: And this one could have been. This is not a mistake where the doctor misread a slide, this was a mistake where somebody took a sample and put the wrong name on it and the wrong number on it.

Steve: Now you haven’t been able to get that other incorrect biopsy. Or you have the incorrect biopsy but you don’t know who it belongs to, do you?

Stewart: No, we don’t.

Steve: And they won’t give you that information. In other words, they’re not being helpful to try and correct the mistake.

Stewart: That’s correct.

Steve: …which goes against their website theme which is ‘we care about our patients’ and all this other good stuff, right?

Mark: Yes, absolutely, and that’s something that we’re willing to address and that’s what we’re doing that now. We’re going to look under every stone and pursue this however we need to prove that really what happened here was really just a preventable mistake, really not a medical negligence mistake. It was an administrative error that should have never of taken place.

Steve: Just own up to it and take care of their medical bills, right?

Stewart: …and pay her for her lost wages.

Steve: …because she can’t work.

Stewart: …and her pain and suffering. You could see that she’s going back to doctors every six months. She’s got a fear of this sarcoma spreading and killing her. Her whole life has changed. She needs modifications done to her home. She can’t get up and down the stairs and getting in and out of the tub is a chore. There are many things that need to be changed in her life and her home as a result of this.

Steve: You know in the medical industry there are misdiagnosis all of the time. How do they normally occur?

Mark: There can be several causes. Usually it’s plain and simple carelessness. The vast majority of medical mistakes that we’ve encountered in our personal practice and our professional practice are just very preventable types of things: not reviewing patient histories, not reading labs correctly, simple mistakes that really unfortunately can have tragic effects on their patients, our clients.

Steve: Well, thank God you’re representing Maria and I want to thank both of you for being on the program today. You’re doing a terrific job.

Thanks for joining us. You can find more information about our guest and the issues at InsiderExclusive.com.

To Schedule a Free Consultation with Greenberg, Stone & Urbano, call 1-888-499-9700 or 305-595-2400. You can visit us at www.sgglaw.com.