The state Medical Examining Board on Tuesday fined a former Brookfield primary care doctor $4,000 and placed his license on probation for three months for failing to make a timely diagnosis of pancreatic cancer for a man who died months later.
The board also fined a Milford gynecologist $5,000 and reprimanded her for failing to meet the standard of care by not examining a patient who had severe lower abdominal pain. It turned out the woman’s ovary was twisted and it was removed during emergency surgery two days later, state records show.
In the Brookfield case, Dr. Robert Jarrett – who now practices in a cardiology group at Danbury Hospital – was alerted that a CT scan in December 2011 showed the patient had potential malignancies in his pancreas and liver, state records show. Though Jarrett and his physician assistant continued to see the man for nine more months, Jarrett did not follow up with the radiologist or order more tests to determine if the patient had cancer, records show.
It wasn’t until July 2012 that Jarrett diagnosed the cancer after ordering an image for a different symptom, records show. The man died months later of pancreatic cancer, records show. Jarrett agreed to the penalty in a consent order with the board and did not contest the state’s findings.
In a letter to the state Department of Public Health, the man’s daughter, Laura DeLeo Dobrindt, objected to the terms of the consent order and asked for a longer probation.
“His negligence manifested itself when he did not refer my father for a follow-up MRI after several lesions were noted on a CT scan that he himself ordered,” she wrote. “Dr. Jarrett ignored these lesions, as well as my father’s list of symptoms,” including weight loss, back pain, chronic cough and early onset diabetes.
Cancer specialists in New York City told the family that there could have been more treatment options if they had seen her father in December 2011 when the scan was done, Dobrindt wrote. She described her father as kind, positive and hopeful. In an interview with C-HIT, she said he was 63 and living in Bethel when he died.
“Dr. Jarrett took the hope that my father had, and through his negligence, damaged the lives of all those who knew, loved and miss him,” she wrote.
After witnessing the board’s vote in Hartford, Dobrindt said she had hoped for at least a six-month probation.
In the Milford case, Dr. Judith Faulkner agreed to the fine and reprimand in a consent order and did not contest the allegations against her.
After seeing the woman for abdominal pain, Faulkner’s nurse suggested the woman was constipated and sent her home in November 2014 with advice to use laxatives, state records show. Two days later, the woman’s twisted ovary was removed at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport, state records show.
In her complaint to DPH, the patient wrote that her pain was so debilitating that she could not walk. She said her surgeon told her she could have died if she had not had emergency surgery.
“I was so shocked and scared that I could not trust my own health care providers,’’ the woman wrote. She added that she is in a constant state of anxiety and depression now, worrying that something will happen to her remaining ovary and she won’t be able to have children.
The board also voted 9-3 to not reprimand Dr. Hal Wasserman, a Danbury cardiologist who was accused of failing to tell a patient’s referring cardiologist that the man was exposed to prolonged fluoroscopic radiation for 170 minutes during a 2007 procedure, state records show. The man, from Florida, later developed a burn, records show.
The board held lengthy discussions about the case at its August meeting and again Tuesday. Dr. Marilyn Ann Katz, Raymond S. Andrews Jr. and Michele Jacklin voted against dropping the reprimand.
In an unusual move, two members of the hearing panel that recommended the reprimand – Dr. Peter M. Zeman and Dr. Robert A. Green – said they no longer believed that Wasserman should be reprimanded because the standard of care was unclear in 2007. Andrews, the third panel member, argued forcefully for the reprimand, saying a reasonable person would have notified the referring cardiologist.
“The level of the overdose was frightening,’’ Andrews said.