AFTER A PATIENT FILED A LAWSUIT against a pathologist at the University of Kansas Hospital for fraud and negligence in a case stemming from a misdiagnosis of cancer in 2015, details about a settlement in the case were sealed. Now, some details have come out.
Last month, NPR station KCUR in Kansas City reported that the Kansas Health Care Stabilization Fund paid the patient, Wendy Ann Noon Berner, $1 million on behalf of the pathologist, Meenakshi Singh, MD, and paid Berner $800,000 on behalf of KU Hospital.
The state stabilization fund provides professional liability coverage for Kansas healthcare providers and is a secondary insurer. In this role, it pays claims after a primary insurer has paid its share.
In this KU Hospital case, the court records were sealed when the case was settled last year. Therefore, it’s unknown how much any primary insurer paid on behalf of the hospital and Singh, KCUR wrote. “But the excess insurance payments suggest the overall settlement totaled at least several million dollars,” the station added. The details were revealed in response to a request KCUR made under the Kansas Open Records Act.
In addition to claims of a misdiagnosis, the case involved an unnecessary surgery and a cover-up involving Singh, the former Chair of Pathology. After the misdiagnosis, a pathologist-turned whistleblower filed a lawsuit that led the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to investigate. CMS found deficiencies in care delivery that left hospital patients at risk.
In August 2017, Berner sued for fraud, negligence, and civil conspiracy, alleging that she was misdiagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015 and that the hospital covered up the case. At the time of the misdiagnosis, Singh was Chair of KU Hospital’s pathology department. Since then, she has left the hospital and could not be reached for comment, the station reported. A spokeswoman said KU Hospital would not comment.
Wrong Cancer Diagnosis
THE DARK REPORT first reported this case of the alleged pathology chair’s diagnostic error and patient harm described in the court documents. The matter first came to light when Singh’s predecessor as pathology Chair, Lowell Tilzer, MD, filed a whistleblower complaint in mid-2016 alleging that Singh had misdiagnosed a patient with cancer and then covered up the mistake after parts of an unspecified organ were removed.
Tilzer alleged that the patient had not been informed of the misdiagnosis and that the hospital sought to retaliate against him after he informed The Joint Commission of the misdiagnosis. The Commission accredits and certifies hospitals. (See “Pathologist’s Error and Hospital’s Cover-Up Lead to CMS Investigation,” TDR, Sept. 18, 2017, and earlier coverage in TDR, July 25 and Sept. 26, 2016.)
After the patient’s surgery, other members of KU Hospital’s pathology department examined tissue samples and determined that the organ was not cancerous, according to Tilzer’s lawsuit. But Singh allegedly covered up the misdiagnosis by adding an addendum to her original report saying the original cancer diagnosis matched the removed organ.