Lawsuit Accuses Washington Hospital of Removing and Misplacing Man's Potentially Cancerous Bladder Tumor

Jeremy Morton-Maxson received distressing news on Sept. 2, 2022, when the urologist who conducted his surgery informed him that the hospital had misplaced his tumor

Image: Getty/Joe Raedle
Image: Getty/Joe Raedle

A lawsuit filed in Washington alleges that a hospital removed a potentially cancerous bladder tumor from a man before misplacing it.

Jeremy Morton-Maxson, a 39-year-old Seattle resident with a family history of bladder cancer, received guidance from a urologist to undergo tumor removal for testing. The recommendation came after he noticed blood in his urine in March 2022, as stated in both the lawsuit and a news release provided to McClatchy News.

According to a complaint filed in late June, Morton-Maxson had surgery on Aug. 17, 2022, at the University of Washington Medical Center's Northwest Hospital. Following the surgery, his doctors conveyed that the tumor was "likely cancer," emphasizing the need for a pathologic review to confirm the diagnosis.

However, Morton-Maxson found himself in a state of anxious anticipation for several weeks, as there was no definitive diagnosis provided, the release stated.

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Morton-Maxson received distressing news on Sept. 2, 2022, when the urologist who conducted his surgery informed him that the hospital had misplaced his tumor, preventing it from being analyzed. This development, as detailed in the complaint and release, prompted Morton-Maxson to file a lawsuit against the University of Washington and those responsible for his medical care, citing negligence and liability.

While the lawsuit does not specify the medical providers involved, it was first reported by The Seattle Times on Sept. 6.

"Anyone who has battled cancer knows the uncertainty surrounding the disease is crippling, and in my case, the uncertainty is amplified by the hospital’s mistake,” Morton-Maxson said in the news release. “I am a young man, and I wake up every morning with this hanging over my head,” Morton-Maxson added.

In response to Morton-Maxson's complaint in King County Superior Court, UW Medicine stated on Aug. 14 that his tumor, identified as a papillary lesion, had not been located or reviewed by the hospital's pathology department after his surgery. In a statement, Morton-Maxson's attorney, Austin Neff, expressed that his client was left with "limited recourse and difficult choices."

“If the tumor was malignant, a pathology report would have told us how aggressive the cancer is and help his care team make critical decisions, including what targeted therapies would have served Jeremy best,” Neff said in the release.

Hero Images/Getty Images
Hero Images/Getty Images

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Consequently, doctors presented Morton-Maxson with two choices: either endure "painful and invasive diagnostic" tests every two months for bladder examination or opt for preventive chemotherapy, according to the release.

Preventive chemotherapy did not align with Morton-Maxson's preferences, as he believed the surgery could have potentially eliminated any cancer risk, he told The Seattle Times. As a result, he chose the alternative option of undergoing diagnostic procedures every 60 days. He has not encountered any further urinary issues, as reported by the newspaper.

Throughout this ordeal, Morton-Maxson claims that UW Medicine has yet to issue an apology for the loss of his tumor.

“I understand that we all make mistakes — I know how understaffed, overworked, and underpaid hospital nurses and technicians are, which I am sure played into this,” Morton-Maxson said. “But in those instances, you need to hold up your hand and say ‘I messed up and I am sorry.’ ”

Following the incident, Morton-Maxson has endured pain, suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, inconvenience, disability, and various other challenges, as indicated in the complaint. He is pursuing legal action to seek compensation for these damages.

Morton-Maxson expressed that had UW Medicine taken responsibility for their mistake and offered an apology, the matter would not have escalated to a legal case.

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“It was a violation of the standard of care not to have the papillary lesion removed at surgery and undergo pathologic evaluation,” UW Medicine responded to Morton-Maxson’s complaint. 

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