Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

YEN SNEAD v. UNITED STATES

September 28, 1984

YEN L. SNEAD, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GREEN

 JOYCE HENS GREEN, District Judge

 Plaintiffs Yen L. Snead and Jack R. Snead bring this medical malpractice action under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. ยงยง 1346(b), 2671 et seq., alleging negligence in medical services performed by defendant's agents. Specifically, plaintiffs claim that Drs. Joseph Sheffery and Thomas Wilson, both gynecologists performing medical services for the United States Department of State Health Clinic in 1979, failed to practice medicine in accordance with the required standard of care in their examinations of the female plaintiff, Yen Snead. The Sneads further allege that those physicians' departure from the required standard of care resulted in their failure to detect Yen Snead's existent but preinvasive cervical cancer and was a substantial factor bringing about the progression and metastasis of that malignancy. Plaintiffs seek recovery of Yen Snead's current and future medical expenses as well as special damages including compensation for lost future income and the value of her homemaking services, compensation for her physical, mental and psychological suffering and Jack Snead's loss of consortium and anguish, and payment of monies lost as a result of the female plaintiff's inability to live overseas.

 Plaintiff Yen Snead is a thirty-eight year old American citizen of Vietnamese birth. She is the wife of plaintiff Jack Snead, a civil engineer employed by the Agency for International Development ("AID"), an agency of the United States Government, and by virtue of her marriage is covered by the Department of State Medical Program and its regulations concerning medical examinations and treatment for AID employees and their dependents. Stip. 4-6. She is the mother of two children, whose ages were 13 and 19 at the time of trial.

 The Sneads married in Vietnam on January 17, 1973 and left that country in July, 1974 when Jack Snead was assigned to an AID post in Yemen. Two years later they moved to an AID post in Egypt, where they lived until 1980. Since 1980 they have lived in the United States.

 Prior to 1978, Yen Snead enjoyed good health and had no known gynecological problems. However, in 1978 her menstrual periods became heavier and increased in length from five days per month to six or seven days per month. At the recommendation of a nurse at the State Department Clinic in Cairo, Egypt, Mrs. Snead had a Papanicolaou smear ("pap smear") taken at that clinic on November 21, 1978, for the purpose of detecting the presence or absence of gynecological pathology. The specimen was submitted to a State Department gynecologist, who interpreted the pap smear as "Negative Class I" with a low estrogen reading.

 On June 29, 1979, while in the United States on home leave, the plaintiff visited the State Department Health Clinic ("the Clinic") in Washington, D.C. for her routine and required World Wide Medical Clearance physical examination. *fn1" She told the examining physician of her excessive and prolonged menstrual bleeding, and he, an internist by specialty, referred her back to the State Department Office of Medical Services for that office to arrange for a gynecological examination. The Office of Medical Services referred Mrs. Snead to Joseph Sheffery, M.D., a gynecologist performing medical services for the Clinic. Stip. 11.

 Dr. Sheffery performed a gynecological examination of Yen Snead on July 2, 1979, in response to her specific complaint of excessive and prolonged bleeding with her menstrual period. As will be discussed below, the thoroughness of that examination is the subject of dispute; however, the parties fully agree that Dr. Sheffery neither performed a pap smear nor ordered a pap smear to be taken. Stip. 12. After examining Mrs. Snead, Dr. Sheffery reported his findings in her clinical record as follows:

 
Uterus fibrotic but no tumor found. Suggest Provera [an oral synthetic progesterone compound] 10 mg. daily [beginning on the 16th day of the patient's menstrual cycle] and see if helps [--] if so repeat Provera 1 month [--] if not relieved should have diagnostic curettage.

 In accordance with his consultation notes, Dr. Sheffery prescribed for Yen Snead medroxyprogesterone acetate tablets (Provera) to be taken orally. A nurse at the Clinic scheduled Mrs. Snead for a follow-up gynecological visit on July 30, 1979. Stip. 17-20.

 Dr. Thomas A. Wilson, M.D., a gynecologist who was at that time associated with Dr. Sheffery and who also provided services to the Clinic, performed the July 30 follow-up examination of Mrs. Snead at the Clinic. At that visit, Dr. Wilson noted that Mrs. Snead's problem of excessive menstrual bleeding had been arrested by the Provera and that no further treatment was necessary. Stip. 21-24. He did not recommend or arrange for follow-up treatment of Mrs. Snead overseas. PX-1, p. 52, Dep. of Yen Snead at 39. Based on the medical record, including the examinations of Doctors Sheffery and Wilson, the State Department Office of Medical Services granted Yen Snead Class I World Wide Medical Clearance on July 31, 1979. Stip. 25.

 Following the grant of World Wide Medical Clearance, Yen Snead returned to Cairo, Egypt, the location of her husband's AID assignment. According to her testimony, she continued to take Provera (brought from the United States) for a "couple of months" and experienced light periods when using the Provera but increased menstrual flow when not. In early 1980, Mrs. Snead began to experience postcoital bleeding and on March 12, 1980 she visited the American Embassy clinic in Cairo with complaints of abnormal bleeding. The record of the nurse who received Mrs. Snead's complaint states the following:

 
Complains of heavy, irregular periods. Has been on Provera -- prescribed by Gyn doctor in U.S. Was told D&C should be accomplished if no improvement. Now experiencing some spotting after intercourse. Referred to Dr. Younis. [Stip. 30].

 The Egyptian gynecologist to whom Mrs. Snead was referred recommended that she undergo a diagnostic curettage. Worried that the facilities at his office did not appear to be sterile, Mrs. Snead asked the referring nurse at the Embassy clinic what options were available, and was advised that she could travel to Germany or the United States for the curettage. Hoping to minimize disruption to her family, and with the approval of the Embassy clinic nurse, Mrs. Snead decided to postpone the procedure until after her youngest child's school year ended. She returned to the United States in July, 1980 and was examined by Dr. George Speck, a gynecologist, on July 29, 1980. Dr. Speck explored Mrs. Snead's pelvic organs both bimanually and using a speculum, and in the course of his examination located a cervical lesion of unknown nature. Two days later, at Alexandria Hospital, in Virginia, Dr. Speck removed tissue from Mrs. Snead's cervix; a biopsy was performed. The pathology report revealed the presence of a cervical tumor, measuring 2.5 x 3 cm., described as a "poorly differentiated adenocarcinoma of the cervix, Stage I-B." Stip. 33. Dr. Speck referred Mrs. Snead to George Washington University Medical Center and Larry McGowan, M.D. On August 26, 1980, Dr. McGowan performed a radical hysterectomy, pelvic lymphadenectomy, and salpingo-oophoectomy on Mrs. Snead, and the accompanying pathology report contained the following diagnosis: "Cervix: poorly differentiated adenocarcinoma (glassy cell carcinoma)." Stip. 34-35. After the hysterectomy, Mrs. Snead returned to Dr. McGowan for follow-up examinations at 3-month intervals and took medication to relieve pelvic pain for approximately 1 1/2 months. In January, 1983, Dr. McGowan changed the interval of her follow-up examinations to 6 months. Less than three months later, in March 1983, Mrs. Snead consulted another physician with complaints of chest pain, and that physician took a series of chest and lung x-rays, revealing a spot on Mrs. Snead's right lung. Yen Snead was referred back to the George Washington University Medical Center, where she was hospitalized and underwent extensive (and sometimes painful) diagnostic procedures, including a lung tissue biopsy. On or about April 14, 1983, it was determined that Mrs. Snead suffers from malignancies in the lung extending into the mediastinal lymph nodes. Stip. 43. The histology of that lung carcinoma is consistent with metastasis from the uterine cervical carcinoma removed surgically in 1980. Stip. 41-44.

 Since May 1983, Mrs. Snead has repeatedly undergone chemotherapy and radiation therapy in an attempt to arrest the spread of her cancer. She continues to suffer not only from the physical side effects of those treatments but also from emotional distress; she takes sleeping pills and anti-depressant medications regularly. Both Sneads testified that their sexual relations have been "drastically reduced" as a result of her illness, Tr. Vol. 3-A, pp. 17, 34. Jack Snead testified at length that his wife's illness had devastated the relationship they once enjoyed as husband and wife. Tr. Vol. 3-A, pp. 6-34. Because of her ongoing need for oncological care, Yen Snead has been denied unrestricted World Wide Medical Clearance since July 27, 1982. She is cleared to travel only to those overseas posts with adequate oncological medical facilities, none of which are posts to which Jack Snead would likely be assigned in light of his seniority and job expertise. Stip. 36-40. Because of her condition, the Sneads have remained in the United States since 1982 despite Mr. Snead's eligibility for overseas assignment.

 In this action for medical malpractice plaintiffs contend that defendant's doctors failed to treat the female plaintiff with that degree of skill, care, or knowledge required of a doctor, which, in turn, resulted in her injury. Essentially, plaintiffs allege that the acts and omissions of defendant's agents involved in the medical care of Mrs. Snead constitute actionable negligence. *fn2" The specific issues presented at trial were (1) whether the gynecological services provided by Drs. Sheffery and Wilson on July 2, 1979 and July 30, 1979 fell below required ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.