Seattle lawyer sues hospital after devastating diagnosis

SEATTLE — A Seattle lawyer and amateur jazz drummer says a mistake at the University of Washington Medical Center has him in a losing battle for his life. Now he and his wife are suing over a devastating diagnosis.

A lawsuit says a radiologist at UW Medicine reported that he found a lesion on Douglas Roach's lung. But no one told Roach or his doctors until he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

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​Douglas Roach, his wife and his attorneys are blaming that on a systemic failure at the UW Medical Center; a failure that they say is shortening a once vibrant life.

Douglas Roach comes alive when sitting behind a set of drums. But the fact is, he is dying.

"Lymphangitic carcinomatosis" he said of his diagnosis, "which is indicative of really, really advanced lung cancer."

Six years ago, Roach was undergoing treatment for a broken back at the University of Washington Medical Center. According to his lawsuit, a radiologist found a lesion on his lung "which was marked 'critical' in all caps and was sent to my surgeon," he said. "And I don't know why he chose never to share it with me or with my primary care doctor."

But his lawsuit says some doctors knew.

"Pretty much everybody on that team was talking about it to each other but nobody ever told me about it," he said.

So for five long years, the lesion grew unchecked. Then early last year, he came down with what doctors thought was pneumonia.

"Then finally, one of the scans last spring, the radiologist said 'boy, this looks like this guy's full of cancer,'" he recalled. "Yup."

It was the last thing they expected.

"I was completely shocked, completely shocked," said Ruby Blondell, Roach's wife. "Came from nowhere. There's no cancer in his family."

"It's not like somebody was exercising medical judgment or anything," said Roach. "Should we treat him with this? Should we treat him with that? They just didn't tell me. They just didn't give me information. And I don't understand it."

And his lawyer says, what is worse, since filing the lawsuit:

"We reached out to the University of Washington," said Mike Wampold. "And we wanted to sit down with the University of Washington and talk about what happened to make sure that this never happened again and talk about a resolution to this. And we've heard nothing."

Now just 60, this lawyer and part-time musician taps into what optimism he has left always aware of the cloud hanging over his life.

"Not only do I have to deal with this dire prognosis," says Roach, "I find myself in, not to sound you know melodramatic, I'm having to console my own widow."

"You called her your widow not your wife," he was told.

"That's what she's going to be," he said. "Excuse me." Then he reached for a tissue to wipe away his tears.

The University of Washington did send out a short statement. They say because of the lawsuit, they aren't able to comment.

Roach says he is taking a newly approved drug. That is why he isn't already dead.

He also says he never smoked a day in his life. So he believes if he had been diagnosed early, he would have beaten this disease.

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