A man’s surgically removed bladder tumor was lost by a hospital, a lawsuit says

A man’s surgically removed bladder tumor was lost by a hospital, a lawsuit says

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A potentially cancerous tumor was removed from a man’s bladder before a hospital misplaced the mass, a lawsuit filed in Washington says.

With a family history of bladder cancer, Jeremy Morton-Maxson, 39, of Seattle, was advised by a urologist to have the tumor removed for testing after he started seeing blood in his urine in March 2022, according to the lawsuit and a news release provided to McClatchy News.

Morton-Maxson underwent surgery at the University of Washington Medical Center’s Northwest hospital Aug. 17, 2022, and was told the tumor was “likely cancer” — but a pathologic review was needed to confirm, according to his doctors, a complaint filed in late June says.

However, no clear diagnosis would come for Morton-Maxson, who was left anxiously awaiting the pathology report results for weeks, according to the release.

On Sept. 2, 2022, the urologist who performed Morton-Maxson’s surgery told him the hospital lost his tumor, and it wasn’t analyzed, the complaint and release says.

Now Morton-Maxson is suing the University of Washington and those who provided him medical care for negligence and liability, the complaint shows. His medical providers weren’t identified in the lawsuit, which was first reported by The Seattle Times on Sept. 6.

“Anyone who has battled cancer knows the uncertainty surrounding the disease is crippling, and in my case, the uncertainty is amplified by the hospital’s mistake,” he said in the news release.

“I am a young man, and I wake up every morning with this hanging over my head,” Morton-Maxson, who describes himself as an outdoor enthusiast, added.

UW Medicine told McClatchy News on Sept. 6 it is unable to comment on pending litigation.

On Aug. 14, UW Medicine said Morton-Maxson’s tumor, a papillary lesion, had not been found or reviewed by the hospital’s pathology department following his surgery, according to an answer it filed in response to Morton-Maxson’s complaint in King County Superior Court.

Morton-Maxson’s attorney Austin Neff, of Osborn Machler law firm in Seattle, said in a statement his client was left “with nothing but bad options.”

“If the tumor was malignant, a pathology report would have told us how aggressive the cancer is and help his care team make critical decisions, including what targeted therapies would have served Jeremy best,” Neff said in the news release.

Painful procedures or chemotherapy

The loss of Morton-Maxson’s tumor left him without a care plan, the complaint says.

As a result, doctors gave Morton-Maxson two options: undergo “painful and invasive diagnostic” tests once every two months for a bladder examination or undergo preventive chemotherapy, according to the release.

Preventive chemotherapy was “not acceptable” to Morton-Maxson, who believes it’s possible the surgery could have eliminated potential cancer, he told the Seattle Times.

He’s since agreed to the alternative option of diagnostic procedures every 60 days and hasn’t experienced further urinary problems, according to the newspaper.

Ultimately, Morton-Maxson says UW Medicine hasn’t apologized for losing his tumor.

“I understand that we all make mistakes — I know how understaffed, overworked and underpaid hospital nurses and technicians are, which I am sure played into this,” Morton-Maxson said. “But in those instances, you need to hold up your hand and say ‘I messed up and I am sorry.’”

Morton-Maxson has experienced pain, suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, inconvenience, disability and more after his surgery, the complaint says. He seeks to recover relief for these damages.

“It was a violation of the standard of care not to have the papillary lesion removed at surgery undergo pathologic evaluation,” UW Medicine said in the answer to his complaint.

However, UW Medicine denies “that this violation of the standard of care proximately caused (Morton-Maxson’s) claimed damages.”

Morton-Maxson said that if UW Medicine “owned up to their error and apologized,” the issue wouldn’t have been brought to court.

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Julia Marnin is a McClatchy National Real-Time reporter covering the southeast and northeast while based in New York. She’s an alumna of The College of New Jersey and joined McClatchy in 2021. Previously, she’s written for Newsweek, Modern Luxury, Gannett and more.