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Jury finds patient, not doctor, contributed to her death

The vast majority of medical malpractice lawsuits happen after a patient’s health or physical condition grows worse while under a doctor’s care. The question before the court often is, was the negative outcome due to negligence on the physician’s part, or something else -- such as the patient’s unwillingness to take responsibility for his or her own health?

A recent malpractice trial ended with a verdict in the defendant’s favor, after the jury determined that the defendant’s treatment met the acceptable standard of care. Jurors appeared to agree that the patient at the center of the case, who died of cancer in 2010, contributed to her own death by smoking heavily her entire adult life.

At trial, the plaintiffs’ attorney argued that the defendant stopped monitoring the patient for cancer, despite her being at high risk for the disease, so that her cancer went undiagnosed until it was too late.

But the doctor’s attorney contended that the form of cancer the defendant died of was aggressive and fast-moving, and difficult to catch early. In addition, the defense noted that the patient had smoked a pack and a half of cigarettes since she was 12, and refused to quit despite her doctor’s pleading -- even after she began cancer treatment.

According to The Citizens’ Voice, the case went to the jury on June 8, and jurors deliberate briefly before issuing their verdict.

Comparative negligence measures how much a personal injury plaintiff is responsible for his or her own harm. Different states treat comparative negligence differently, but often when the jury finds that the plaintiff is significantly responsible for what happened, that finding can reduce or eliminate damages the defendant must pay.

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