A jury in the Cascade County District Court deliberated for seven hours following a trial that lasted two weeks by finding that a doctor was not responsible for the death of patient David Bushong, which resulted from a rare form of cancer. Dr. Davis Huebner, a podiatrist, had treated Bushong prior to any diagnosis of cancer for a ganglion cyst. This type of cyst develops on joints, tendons, or ligaments, and usually will fill with and retain fluid. They are not associated with cancer and tend to dissolve over time. Unless they are causing pain, they may not require surgical treatment.
The family of Bushong brought a civil suit against Dr. Huebner and the Great Falls Clinic claiming he was negligent in not ordering tests for the presence of cancer at the time. Nathan Hoines, the attorney for the plaintiffs, sought $1.4 million in damages in addition to burial and medical expenses, stating that if Huebner had detected the cancer at that time, Bushong would have lived.
Roughly six months after Bushong visited Dr. Huebner, another doctor noticed the cancer following an MRI and performed an amputation of the portion of the leg below the knee. Unfortunately, by the time of the procedure, the cancerous cells had spread further within Bushong's body. Apparently, the form of cancer that existed was a sarcoma, which is extremely rare and it appeared to look similar to a ganglion cyst, thus Huebner saw no need for fluid testing.
A sarcoma is a cancerous tumor that develops in regions of connective tissue. The defense explained that Huebner adhered to the basic care standards, which they deemed reasonable in providing care. Further, Dr. Huebner is not an oncologist that is trained in cancer detection, thus he should not be expected to make that determination.
The Bushong claim asserted the standard of care violation occurred when Huebner sent the fluid from the cyst for a test for infection, but not for cancer screening. Bushong visited him two times for treatment and on the second visit, he observed that the cyst had filled again will fluid after being drained on the first visit. Several months later another doctor ordered an MRI which detected further growth. A pathologist found the likely presence of cancer following a biopsy and the leg was then amputated from the knee down.
Montana medical malpractice claims are those brought against medical or dental treatment providers for deviating from the acceptable levels or standards which cause damage to the plaintiff. The state requires examination by a Medical Legal Panel prior to filing, which is composed of three medical professionals and three attorneys. This panel reviews the details of the alleged malpractice to determine if the standard of care was not maintained. If the case proceeds to court, plaintiffs may retain expert medical witnesses that are qualified in the realm of medicine involved in the case.