A Phoenix war veteran is suing the VA Medical Center for $50 million in damages, claiming he received a late diagnosis of terminal prostate cancer. His lawsuit comes after years and years of complaints from other patients about the Phoenix VA facility and the quality of its urology care.
According to a civil complaint filed in the U.S. District Court, Steven Cooper, age 44, served in the U.S. Army for 18 years before he was honorably discharged in 2007. Like many vets, he had no health insurance and therefore had no care options except for the VA hospital. His complaint states that between July and December 2011, Cooper attempted to unsuccessfully schedule several appointments with the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center.
He was given appointments for months later which were canceled or rescheduled multiple times by the VA, according to the filing. At the time that Cooper finally arrived to his appointment on Dec. 17, 2011, a nurse practitioner evaluated him instead of a physician. According to the complaint, the nurse practitioner failed to properly examine, evaluate, diagnose and treat Cooper when she noticed he had an asymmetrical prostate. She did not advise him to seek further care.
Cooper continued to seek medical care throughout 2012 for the health symptoms he had made the original appointment for. It was not until the following year in December 2012 that a VA Medical Center doctor ordered a prostate antigen test for Cooper. When the results were found to be abnormal, a biopsy was performed on Cooper’s prostate on Dec. 14, 2012. Cooper states in the complaint that he met a week later with a urology doctor on Dec. 21, 2012, and was informed that he had stage four prostate cancer. He was advised to seek hospice care, since effective treatment was too late.
Cooper sought a second opinion and received an emergency radical prostatectomy three weeks later. The complaint says he suffered complications from the VA’s delay and is now terminally ill.
Cooper filed his lawsuit against the VA on Oct. 26, seeking $50 million for “personal injuries due to medical negligence.”
According to cancer.org, “screening can help find cancers at an early stage, when they are more easily cured.”
Prostate cancer can often be found early by testing the amount of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in a male’s blood. If the results of either one of these tests are abnormal, further testing is needed to see if there is a cancer. If prostate cancer is found as a result of screening with the PSA test or DRE, it will probably be at an earlier, more treatable stage than if no screening were done.
Since using early detection tests for prostate cancer became fairly common in the United States since 1990, the prostate cancer death rate has dropped.
The American Cancer Society recommends that men thinking about prostate cancer screening make timely and informed decisions based on available information, discussion with their doctor, and their own views on the benefits and side effects of screening and treatment.
Cooper stated he was told by the nurse practitioner that he had no reason to be concerned about his abnormal exam and that further treatment was not necessary. Had Cooper received the proper medical care during his visit in 2011, his prostate cancer would not have advanced as far as it did.
Since the scandal erupted in April 2014, other reports of VA employees complaining about a months-long waiting list for ailing veterans have surfaced. The Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center is under investigation.
The problems with long wait times at the center were due to a lack of space and staffing, according to Jean Schaefer, a public affairs officer: “We have taken steps to address both of those,” Schaefer said in a phone interview Monday.