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Patient Refuses to Follow Doc's Orders, Suit Thrown Out

By Jack H. FarnbauchJanuary 3, 2018

In August 2006, an ultrasound of Fred McDaniel’s liver showed a problem, so his gastroenterologist, Dr. William Erdel, asked McDaniel to have an MRI and blood test, but McDaniel refused. A December 2006 follow-up with Erdel revealed the tumor was growing. An April 2007 follow-up with Erdel yielded a diagnosis of liver cancer. Erdel gave McDaniel treatment options for the cancer diagnosis and recommended possibly getting on the transplant list. McDaniel told Erdel that he wouldn’t follow his recommendations and he also refused an MRI or further testing. 

McDaniel eventually agreed to receive treatment from Dr. Maurice Arregui in November 2007, and after that time Erdel was no longer consulted on issues related to McDaniel’s liver cancer. The last time Erdel saw McDaniel was in December 2010 at a follow-up appointment for his liver cirrhosis. McDaniel died almost two years later and in August 2014, his estate filed a medical malpractice suit against Erdel and Erdel’s medical group. 

McDaniel’s wife, Nancy, subsequently testified Erdel should have informed her husband that if he stopped drinking, attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and put his name on the transplant list, he might have prolonged his life. Erdel, however, testified by the time McDaniel had stopped drinking for a long period of time, possibly qualifying him for a transplant, he was under Arregui’s care.

The Marion Superior Court ultimately entered summary judgment in favor of Erdel and Indiana Gastroenterology. The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the summary judgment for Erdel. While Nancy alleged Erdel’s malpractice occurred when he diagnosed McDaniel with cancer in April 2007, she failed to file her claim against him until August 2014, thus exceeding the two-year statute of limitations. Further, Judge Elaine Brown wrote the record revealed McDaniel was first presented with the option of a liver transplant as early as 2002, and that he continued to drink when knew alcohol use would disqualify him from receiving a transplant.

The Court of Appeals wrote that “under these circumstances, we conclude that the McDaniel Estate has not met its burden of establishing an issue of fact material to a theory that avoids the defense of the statute of limitations,” You can read more here.