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Former UI professor's family sues the state after his death

BY BETH BRATSOS | FEBRUARY 16, 2012 6:30 AM

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A former University of Iowa law professor's family is suing the state of Iowa after he died of colon cancer in June 2011 under the care of UI Hospitals and Clinics.

Joyce Carman, the widow of Professor David Baldus, said her husband did not receive proper treatment and care from his doctors at the UIHC, including a failure to properly monitor the condition of his health and diagnose him.

According to court documents filed in Johnson County last week, Baldus had a colonoscopy in September 2004, where his doctor found a small and "completely benign" polyp, removed it, and recommended that Baldus return for another colonoscopy in five years. On numerous occasions between 2004 and 2010, Baldus requested a repeat colonoscopy and was told he did not need one.

He returned to the hospital on Jan. 13, 2010, with complaints of abdominal pain and was diagnosed with narcotic-induced ileus — a type of intestinal obstruction — likely a result of his prescribed pain medication. He went back again two days later after increased abdominal pain and was eventually diagnosed with colon cancer.

Baldus died on June 13, 2011, about 18 months later.

Janine Kokal, a nurse educator at the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, said colonoscopies are typically performed once every 10 years starting at age 50, unless someone has symptoms or a strong family history of colon cancer. She said if a polyp is detected, subsequent colonoscopies are scheduled depending on how many there are and how they look.

"If one small one [was detected] and wasn't causing any problems, I'm guessing they wouldn't have you come back every year, but usually a doctor would recommend that," she said. "It often takes up to ten years to actually develop into [a] cancerous polyp."

Carman, who filed the lawsuit as the executor of Baldus' estate and on behalf of their two daughters, said the state of Iowa is liable for the negligent acts of its employees and staff at the UIHC because they deprived Baldus of his opportunity to receive early and proper care that could have resulted in an increased life expectancy.

According to the documents, the family is seeking compensation for medical costs, burial costs, and multiple intangible damages.

"[Baldus] developed mental distractibility, poor attention and lack of focus," the lawsuit states. "As a result of these symptoms he was forced to cancel class for the first time in 40 years."

UI spokesman Tom Moore declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying the university does not discuss matters involving pending litigation.


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