On September 21, 1982, the Queens complainant 32-year-old woman visited her accused gynecologist for her annual check-up. At that time, the gynecologist made note of a one-centimeter mass on the outside lower quadrant of the woman’s left breast which he tentatively classified as a galactocele or a milk-filled cyst, but no further tests were performed. Ten months later, the woman returned to her Staten Island gynecologist complaining of a painful lump in her left breast and a swelling under her left arm. Following a mammography and other examinations, the mass in the woman’s breast was diagnosed as cancer which had metastasized or spread, to three ribs and two vertebrae. The woman died nearly two years later, as a result of the extensive metastasis of the cancer leaving as the sole beneficiary of her estate her then four-year-old daughter.
At the time her condition was first diagnosed, she was in the process of obtaining a divorce from her husband who contributed nothing toward her own or her child’s support. Although after the birth of her daughter, she had discontinued working outside the home, she was certified as a teacher for kindergarten through twelfth grade and had been a permanent substitute teacher in the Lawrence school district for one and one-half years prior to her daughter’s birth. She held undergraduate degrees in art education and psychology and was working toward obtaining an advanced degree in psychology in preparation for a child psychology program. She had always been a very self-sufficient and independent person. She had fully participated in the daily activities of her child. Because of her rapidly deteriorating physical condition and the negative effects of the medical treatment, the woman’s life changed to a tragically radical degree. She initially underwent two months of hormone therapy which was discontinued when she stopped responding. She began experiencing excruciating pain in her right leg which was determined to be caused by an additional lesion. She was then placed on a program of pain killers including morphine and methadone which her treating physician testified only dulled the recognition of pain in the brain but did not eliminate the pain. She also received a combination of five chemotherapy drugs which caused debilitating side effects. She became constipated, weak and tired, suffered from insomnia and began losing weight at the rate of two or three pounds per week. Her bones became very brittle and she was warned by her physicians to be very careful to avoid breaking them. In fact, she had to be hospitalized on three separate occasions for hypocalcaemia which is an elevation of calcium in the blood causing sleeplessness, lethargy, confusion, difficulty in walking, severe dehydration and ultimately death. The continuous vomiting caused by the chemotherapy resulted in dental infections and the loss of six teeth which she had to have extracted with only a minimal amount of novacaine due to the chemotherapy.
The woman became a virtual invalid. She relied on a homemaker, her friends and family to care for her child, to shop for her, to clean her house, to prepare meals and to drive her to the hospital. She had no physical strength. She was too weak to pick up her daughter or to perform any type of housework. Moreover, because of her weakened bones, she was afraid to go to any crowded places such as a train station or shopping mall for fear of being hit in her ribs or vertebrae. In any event, she was physically unable to shop for herself. Her social life became nonexistent.