Cancer Victim’s Family Settles Out of Court

A Blair County judge has approved an out-of-court settlement for the survivors of a woman who died in 1998 from lung cancer. Judge Hiram A Carpenter was to preside over a two-week civil trial in May in which Wayne Campbell of Altoona was suing Sylvan Radiology and now-retired Dr. Mason Whitmore for not diagnosing a tumor that eventually led to the death of Campbell’s 52-year-old wife, Carole. But a recent mediation session resulted in the settlement. Part of the settlement will be paid for through the state’s Medical Professional Liability Catastrophe Loss Fund, known as the CAT Fund. Campbell’s Philadelphia attorney, Eric G. Zajac, a former Altoonan, said he couldn’t talk about the settlement.

But he said that since the case was filed, Pennsylvania legislators have eliminated the CAT fund, which gave doctors insurance protection beyond the policies they acquire on the open market. According to legal documents filed in the county courthouse, Carole Campbell was ailing and went for a medical exam in November 1997. Her doctor suggested she undergo a lung examination, and she had an X-ray taken by Whitmore at Altoona Hospital. The doctor found her condition to be normal, according to court papers. About a year later, she went to the doctor for swelling of the neck and face, and it was discovered she was suffering from cancer. The trial would have involved expert witnesses, including Dr. Larry R. Kaiser of the University of Pennsylvania.

He concluded Whitmore missed a “suspicious mass” when he looked at Carole Campbell’s 1997 X-ray. In his report, Kaiser concluded that had the mass been diagnosed and treated, the five-year survival rate for such patients was 70 percent to 80 percent. A defense doctor, Chanda P. Belani of the University of Pittsburgh, disagreed with Kaiser. She concluded there was a “suggestion of density” on the Campbell X-ray but no definitive mass in Carole Campbell’s lung. The initial chest X-ray was taken Nov. 4, 1997. Carole Campbell died Nov. 27, 1998. Her husband and daughter, Nicole, attended the mediation conference held by Carpenter. Source: The Altoona Mirror, 6/15/02