The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed summary judgment for a gastroenterologist who was alleged to have committed malpractice by not informing a patient of the criteria for a liver transplant. The court ruled Friday the patient’s estate failed to prove their claim should be allowed to proceed despite a seven-year delay in its filing.
In August 2006, an ultrasound of Fred McDaniel’s liver showed a problem, so his gastroenterologist, Dr. William Erdel, asked Daniel to have an MRI and blood test that could detect tumor activity. However, McDaniel refused to get the recommended test, and a followup ultrasound showed in December 2006 the tumor was growing.
After a third ultrasound the following April, Erdel told McDaniel he likely had hepatocellular carcinoma that would continue to grow. The doctor discussed possible treatments and recommended additional testing, but McDaniel continued to refuse to follow up on Erdel’s recommendations.
McDaniel eventually agreed to receive ablation treatments 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 nearly two years later, and in August 2014 his estate filed a medical malpractice complaint against Erdel and Indiana Gastroenterology, Inc. The complaint alleged Erdel failed to refer McDaniel to be evaluated for a liver transplant that would have cured his liver disease.
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, and the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld that ruling Friday.
While Nancy alleged Erdel’s malpractice occurred when he diagnosed McDaniel with carcinoma 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.
“Under these circumstances, we conclude that the 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,” Brown wrote.