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Woman wins millions in suit against health system

Temple doctors fail to diagnose 20-year-old Yanira Montanez’s brain tumor.

Yanira Montanez is paralyzed, blind and brain-damaged. A court has ruled that a misdiagnosis of a brain tumor by doctors from Temple University Health System hospitals has left Montanez with multiple disabilities.

In March 2004, Montanez arrived at the Episcopal Hospital emergency room complaining of nausea, headaches, vomiting and numbness in her arms, legs and face. She was sent home the same day with a prescription to treat nausea.

The next day, Montanez returned to the emergency room, this time at Northeastern Hospital. The doctor who examined Montanez related her symptoms to gastrointestinal issues from an infection caused by the production of toxins and prescribed her medication for the discomfort. Again, the doctor sent her home. Experiencing the same symptoms, Montanez returned back to the hospital for a third time, but was sent home.

On March 26, 2004, Montanez fell down a flight of stairs, leaving her unconscious. She was rushed to the Temple University Hospital for surgery to remove a brain tumor.

Montanez’s malpractice lawsuit against TUHS was finally brought to court on Aug. 4, 2008.

Episcopal and Northeastern hospitals are two of the five hospitals that make up TUHS.

After fighting a two-and-a-half week battle against the physicians’ medical negligence, 10 jurors of the 11-member jury ruled in favor of Montanez on Aug. 18, awarding her $11.2 million; $5.9 million were designated for future medical bills and the care of her 4-year-old daughter.

With the help of her family, Montanez and her daughter have moved to Boston.

Montanez’s lawyer, Kenneth Rothweiler, argued that all of this could have been prevented if a CT scan would have been administered.

Rothweiler said CT scans are an effective way to detect if someone has a brain tumor, especially those experiencing symptoms similar to Montanez’s.

“They had a 72-hour window in order to do something,” Rothweiler said. “This is something that was preventable. I am overly convinced that had she not been on welfare, they would have done the CT scan and removed the brain tumor immediately.”

Montanez was on Medicaid, a federal program that provides funding for health care for uninsured low-income families. Rothweiler said the CT scan would have cost thousands of dollars and Medicaid would only cover a fraction of the bill.

It is believed by both Montanez and her lawyer that she was treated unfairly simply because she did not have insurance.

“I really think it was economic discrimination,” Rothweiler said. “Anyone with insurance would have been ordered a CT scan.”

TUHS’s lawyer could not be reached for comment.

According to court records, the doctors said Montanez possessed a rare form of cancer that is often hard to diagnose in patients who are young and otherwise healthy. Montanez also tested positive for a pregnancy test, which may have explained some of the less severe symptoms she was experiencing.
In their defense, the doctors claimed to have ordered a neurological examination for Montanez, which showed no results of a brain tumor.

Kylee Messner can be reached at kylee.messner@temple.edu.

One comment on “Woman wins millions in suit against health system

  1. Colin G. Dempsey on said:

    In defense of the doctors, the medical system that the federal government has instated throughout the country can take some blame on this. Yes, it was definitely economic discrimination if a CT Scan was necessary (which it was but hard to diagnose). Yet, the doctors don’t make the rules when it comes to who can pay the bill. Maybe the federal government should have foreseen problems like this while creating the health care system. I mean, they were completely prepared for Hurricane Katrina, right? (Sorry FEMA)

    What about ‘manifest destiny’? I do not know this lady or will ever but don’t we all make ourselves. If she had a job that provided insurance, perhaps the outcome might be different right now.

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