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VA settles suit over manâ??s death


February 16. 2013 2:48PM
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SCRANTON -- The Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Plains Township has agreed to settle a federal lawsuit filed by a Wilkes-Barre woman who alleged a physician improperly treated her husband's lung cancer, leading to his premature death.


Pauline Modzelewski of South Hancock Street filed suit against the facility and Dr. Kim Loan Vo in 2011 in connection with the death Feb. 5, 2009 death of her husband, Ralph.


According to the suit filed by attorney Thomas Foley Jr. of Scranton:


Ralph Modzelewski was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2004. Modzelewski was advised not to undergo surgery because he suffered from severe lung disease and there was a high risk he would not survive the operation.


Over the course of the next year, a tumor in Modzelewski's left lung continued to grow. Vo's notes indicate Modzelewski and his wife chose not to undergo any treatment, but the suit alleges they were never offered any alternatives to the surgery.


In August 2006 Modzelewski went to the emergency room at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center.


Based on that visit he was referred to another physician, who determined Modzelewski was, in fact, a candidate for surgery. That surgery was performed in October 2006.


The suit alleges Vo was negligent for failing to properly diagnose Modzelewski's cancer and that she unilaterally ruled out the possibility of surgery, chemotherapy or other treatments without consulting with other physicians.


Those decisions caused his condition to worsen, leading to his death from respiratory failure.


The case was referred to a magistrate judge for a settlement conference, which was held on Monday, according to the court docket sheet. The parties advised the court on Wednesday that a settlement had been reached.


Details of the settlement were not available Thursday. Foley did not return a phone message or email seeking comment.


Vince Riccardo, spokesman for the VA Center, declined to comment, citing the hospital's policy not to discuss legal matters.




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