Kentucky Woman Says Hospital Missed Her Cancer Then Covered Up The Mistake

By Bill Galluccio

March 4, 2021

A Kentucky woman remains embroiled in a years-long legal battle with a hospital that missed her cancer diagnosis and then allegedly covered up their mistake, according to a report by NBC NewsKim Johnson was referred for a mammogram at Fleming County Hospital over concerns that a lump on her breast may have been cancerous.

In January 2015, Johnson was relieved when she received a letter saying that there "no evidence of cancer."

Unfortunately, her symptoms continued, and after ten months, she went to another hospital for a second opinion. That's when she learned she had stage 4 breast cancer, and it spread to her lymph nodes and bones. She was told she had less than one year to live.

Her new doctor, Dr. Heidi Murley, reviewed the results of her previous mammogram and asked why she didn't schedule a biopsy sooner. Johnson was confused because she was told she was cancer-free.

In 2016, she filed a lawsuit against Fleming County Hospital for sending her the letter. The hospital responded to the lawsuit claiming that they sent her two letters advising her the results of the mammogram were indeterminate and that she needed to return for a follow-up screening.

In April 2018, the hospital agreed to a $1.25 million settlement with Johnson, but that would not be the end of the legal battle. A year later, Johnson learned that a forensics expert determined that the letters advising Johnson to schedule a follow-up exam were created after her lawsuit was filed.

The report found that a radiology technician noted that she needed to return for more tests but enter a code into the system signifying the results of the test were negative. That is why Johnson received a letter stating she was cancer-free. After Johnson filed her lawsuit, the forensic expert said that her medical file was updated three times to change the results from negative to abnormal.

"The changes to Johnson's medical record were designed to hide the wrongdoing of Johnson's medical providers and shift the blame to Johnson," said Laraclay Parker, Johnson's attorney.

Her lawyers said they would have never agreed to the settlement with the hospital if they had known they had altered Johnson's medical records. Now, they are trying to reverse the settlement but have been hit with legal setbacks. A court ruled that in order to vacate the original settlement, Johnson must pay back the money. The judge also found that there are no laws in Kentucky that allow patients to sue medical providers over falsified records. An appeals court concurred with the judge, and Johnson's lawyers are hoping the state Supreme Court will rule in their favor.

While Johnson managed to beat the odds after undergoing dozens of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, her cancer continues to spread. In January, doctors removed part of a tumor in her neck but couldn't get all of it.

"What I worry about the most is the kids," Johnson said. "If they just would have sent me for a biopsy, maybe I would have more time to spend with them."

Photo: Getty Images

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