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On March 24, 2014, Cynthia Hawthorne experienced an intense pain in her lower abdomen. The agony became so unbearable that she went to the emergency room at the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital to seek treatment. Doctors at the Vermont hospital believed that she was suffering from diverticulitis, which is a common infection or inflammation in the colon. Hawthorne was put through a CT scan where diverticulitis was identified, but the attending radiologist also discovered a “solid renal mass,” which he warned in his report could be cancerous. But his warnings, though allegedly discussed between staff members at the hospital, were never relayed on to the patient.

The radiologist wrote in his report that Hawthorne should see a urologist and get a biopsy, but according to a medical malpractice lawsuit filed in May, she was discharged the same day without being told that she might have cancer. Hawthorne was informed that she was suffering from diverticulitis and was given a prescription for drugs to ward off the infection. According to the lawsuit, Hawthorne did not discover that she had cancer in her kidney until the end of 2016, more than two years later. And by that time the cancer had spread to her lungs.

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Vermont’s Division of Licensing and Protection investigated the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital for malpractice and issued two citations. The agency found that the emergency department director, George Terwilliger, was in violation of a patient notification error and that the hospital had failed to properly investigate the case. According to the agency the hospital has implemented a new protocol for communications with patients and between their staff as a result of the investigation. In addition, the hospital has also created a new review procedure to double check reports so that nothing is missed, as it allegedly was in the case of Cynthia Hawthorne.

“We take this matter and all patient complaints extremely seriously, and, as reported, we have instituted multiple system improvements to our care processes,” said Gina Pattison the marketing director at the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital.

Hawthorne’s lawyer wrote that she “has been deprived and will in the future be deprived of her ability to carry on and enjoy life’s activities.” She is still undergoing medical treatment and had to have her kidney completely removed, which may have been avoided if not for the alleged negligence of Brattleboro Memorial. Hawthorne is now seeking damages for the impact on her future earnings, emotional distress, medical expenses, and her physical pain and suffering.

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