In a suit filed in state District Court in Las Vegas, N.M., the wife of Russell Means (Pearl Means) is accusing doctors who work at Christus clinics of overlooking obvious signs of her husband’s cancer that allowed his condition to worsen as it went untreated for months.
Santa Fe New Mexico:
In court documents, lawyers for the hospital deny any wrongdoing.
“Our hearts go out to the friends and family of Russell C. Means for their loss of a loved one,” Christus St. Vincent spokesman Arturo Delgado said.
But he said that the New Mexico Medical Review Commission determined there was no evidence of professional negligence on the part of the hospital related to Russell Means’ death.
Under New Mexico law, the commission, made up of three doctors and three lawyers, reviews medical malpractice claims. Its decisions are not public and are inadmissible in court, so the hospital’s statement could not be confirmed, said Randy Marshall, executive director of the New Mexico Medical Society, which oversees the commission.
The suit accuses doctors of failing to diagnose Russell Means’ cancer during a series of visits between February and April 2011 to clinics owned by Christus.
When Russell Means’ symptoms persisted, he sought a second opinion from doctors at UCLA Medical Center in July 2011, and was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus, tongue, lymph nodes and lungs. He underwent aggressive treatment, including radiation therapy through the end of the year, and in August 2012, he learned during a doctor’s visit that his cancer had advanced, according to court records.
The defendants named in the suit are the Endoscopy Center of Santa Fe, Dr. Fenimore Sartorius, Rodeo Family Medicine, Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, Northern New Mexico Gastroenterology Associates, Dr. Cornelius Dooley and physician assistant Bonnie Giachetti.
Russell Means complained that he was coughing, spitting up blood and having difficulty swallowing when he visited one of the clinics March 3, 2011, the lawsuit states. An esophagogastroduodenoscopy was performed six days later.
According to the lawsuit, Pearl Means and her husband were concerned that cancer would be found, and expressed that to Dooley.
“Mrs. Means was reassured that it was negative other than for a possible enlarged tonsil, even though Russell Means had previously undergone a tonsillectomy as a child,” the lawsuit states. “Dr. Dooley’s diagnosis was Esophagitis, reflux.”
In late April 2011, Means returned to the clinic and complained that his symptoms had not improved. He continued to experience pain, loss of appetite and weight loss, leading him to seek care in July 2011 at UCLA Medical Center, according to the suit. There, a doctor visually recognized a tumor near the base of Russell Means’ tongue and ordered a biopsy the same day that confirmed it was malignant, according to the suit.
A doctor’s visit 13 months later in August 2012 revealed Russell Means’ cancer had spread to his lymph nodes and lungs. Two months later, he was dead.
The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages.
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