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Activist's wife sues hospital for medical malpractice

Native American activist Russell Means died in 2012 following a battle with cancer, which doctors allegedly failed to diagnose in 2011. Pennsylvania residents may know Means from when he appeared in movies such as "The Last of the Mohicans" or when he was involved in a 72-day standoff with federal authorities in South Dakota in 1973 as part of the American Indian Movement. Some of his first acts with AIM involved protesting the use of Native American images as part of professional and college athletic team mascots.

Means had originally sought treatment at the Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His wife claims that there was a failure to diagnose his esophageal cancer despite his symptoms, such as spitting up blood and having difficulty swallowing. She says that medical personnel credited an enlarged tonsil for the symptoms even though her husband had undergone a tonsillectomy as a child.

The New Mexico Medical Review commission says that there was no professional negligence involved. Even so, Means' wife has filed a medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuit against the hospital. By the time the cancer was detected, it had spread throughout Means' body. He died at the age of 72.

There are times in which health care providers make unavoidable mistakes. However, many mistakes are the result of doctors jumping to conclusions or not making use of all of the resources available to them. These situations can cause harm to patients, leading to a great deal of pain and suffering in addition to unexpected financial strain. A medical malpractice lawsuit can provide an avenue for an injured patient to hold the health care provider accountable for failing to provide the standard of care.

Source: Reuters, "Widow of American Indian activist sues doctors over his death", Keith Coffman, June 26, 2014

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