Activist’s widow sues hospital for misdiagnosis

Pennsylvania residents who are familiar with the American Indian Movement might be interested to know that the widow of Russell Means, a former leader of the group, is suing a hospital in New Mexico for medical malpractice and wrongful death. She claims that the hospital failed to diagnose the esophageal cancer that took her husband’s life in 2012.

Means became an activist in the 1960s, but he advanced to more than a leader for AIM. In 1987, he tried his hand at politics but was unable to win the presidential nomination for the Libertarian Party. He was also an actor in ‘Natural Born Killers,” ‘The Last of the Mohicans” and a popular animated children’s movie.

In a San Miguel County court filing, the widow says that the Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center personnel’s failure to diagnose the cancer led to his death. He had gone to the hospital for treatment in 2011, but his symptoms, such as spitting up blood and difficulty swallowing, were attributed to a potentially swollen tonsil. The physicians reassured his wife that cancer tests were negative. However, Means’ tonsils had been removed when he was a child. When he was finally diagnosed, the disease had already spread.

The hospital does not believe that it or its personnel did anything wrong, according to a representative. The New Mexico Medical Review commission voted 6-0 that the hospital was not negligent in the case.

Physicians and medical facilities could be held responsible for misdiagnosing patients if there is evidence of professional negligence. Patients who are injured due to a misdiagnosis could receive compensation for the damages caused to them if they file a medical malpractice claim. The reparation might pay for the medical bills resulting from the misdiagnosis and compensate the patients for pain and suffering.

Source: Reuters, “Widow of American Indian activist sues doctors over his death“, Keith Coffman, June 26, 2014