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Hereditary Cancer Litigation: A Status Report

Hereditary Cancer Litigation: A Status Report

Dr. Severin's article is a valuable asset for the practitioner--legal or medical--or academician concerned with the burgeoning of civil lawsuits over failure to comply with new approaches to the management and control of cancer. The article identifies two types of such suits and explores the history of medical malpractice litigation relating to cancer care. The focus is the physician who either misses or fails to make a timely diagnosis of hereditable cancer.

Severin's work is timely, since both the number of suits and the size of awards in cancer litigation are rising. The median verdict for cancer-related cases rose from $825,000 in 1990 to $1.374 million 4 years later, an insurance industry source has reported.

The paper by Severin is particularly important because it notes that "third party liability has become a popular charge against health-care workers." These suits demand compensation for not only the costs to the patient but also "perceived future damages to the patient and to other members of the family." Since most of the recorded legal cases pertain to hereditary breast cancer, the article explains the steps taken by litigators to apply scientific developments to suit preparation.

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