$13.5 Million Boston Wrongful Death Verdict Awarded to Family of Woman Who Died After Receiving Experimental Cancer Drug Treatment

In Boston, Massachusetts, a Suffolk Superior Court jury awarded the family of Amy Altman $13.5 million for her wrongful death. Altman died in July 2003 after undergoing a cycle of experimental chemotherapy to treat her cancer.

The 40-year-old mother of two young girls, who sought treatment at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, was receiving chemotherapy for Ewing’s sarcoma once every two weeks instead of the standard treatment of once every three weeks. According to the family’s Massachusetts wrongful death lawyer, the protocol had never been tried on another adult prior to Altman. However, she agreed to the treatment based on the recommendations of the Dana-Farber oncologists. He pointed out that while Altman was aware of the side effects, she did not know how dangerous they could be for her.

Altman developed diarrhea two months into the treatment and, according to the family’s attorney, two Dana-Farber oncologists that consulted with her dismissed the diarrhea as a natural side effect. Soon after, Altman began having problems urinating and started experiencing severe pain in her abdomen.

She died soon after doctors at Brigham and Women’s Hospital began treating her for a flesh-eating bacterial infection that caused her diarrhea. According to autopsy results, Altman’s cancer was cured before she died.

The Boston jury ruled that her death could have been prevented if the doctors at the institute had investigated the actual cause of her chronic diarrhea. The defendants in the case included Dr. Jeffrey Morgan and Dr. Suzanne George, the Dana-Farber oncologists that examined Altman’s diarrhea. The Massachusetts jury awarded Altman’s family $9.4 million plus interest for her wrongful death.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute officials say they disagree with the medical malpractice verdict.

Family of Dana-Farber cancer patient gets $13.5M, Boston Herald, November 6, 2008
Family Gets $13 Million for Woman’s Experimental Cancer Drug Death, Fox, November 6, 2008

Related Web Resources:

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

National Cancer Institute

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