Breast cancer patient cannot sue over lymphedema and axillary cording
In Compton v. Pass, Pettinga and William Beaumont Hospital, a breast cancer patient sued her doctors, alleging that if she had been properly informed, she would have opted for sentinel node dissection instead of axillary node removal. She documented that she was more than three times more likely to endure severe, permanent arm morbidity as a result of the removal of 18 lymph nodes, and argued that her permanent arm problems would have been avoided had she been allowed an opportunity to make an informed choice.
The Court of Appeals for the second time threw out Compton's appeal. It held that even though the procedure adopted by the doctors increased her risk of permanent, serious arm morbidity from between 0 and 5 percent to approximately 18 to 35 percent (for lymphedema) and from between 12-15 percent to approximately 35 percent ( for axillary cording), she did not meet the threshold for proving the doctors "caused" her poorer outcome. They also rejected proofs that her risk of arm morbidity was increased from "minimal to none" with sentinel node biopsy to "more than 82 percent" with axillary node dissection, because the latter statistics were not sufficiently specific to her circumstances.
Given that the Stone case discussed previously in this web log never achieved a majority analysis for evaluating "lost opportunity" claims, and given that there is now a new Justice on the Supreme Court bench, perhaps the Compton case will provide a springboard for a thoughtful, common sense decision on "lost opportunity for a better outcome". It is certainly overdue.