Summit County family says lab error led to aunt’s false cancer diagnosis, life-altering surgery

Published: Jan. 18, 2023 at 11:23 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SUMMIT COUNTY, Ohio (WOIO) - A Northeast Ohio family says a false lung cancer diagnosis and the removal of part of their elderly aunt’s lung has forever changed her quality of life, so they’re speaking out, saying they don’t want another person to suffer the way their loved one has.

A civil lawsuit was filed in 2020 in Summit County Common Pleas Court, claiming medical negligence against Summa Health Systems, Summit Pathology Associates, Inc., a number of Akron area doctors, and other entities.

To date, there has been no resolution in the case.

Mariann Cummings, 80, of Tallmadge, her sister Carol House and her nieces Kimberly House and Andrea House-Shultz filed the suit, saying a lab error on a biopsy in 2019 led to the misdiagnosis of lung cancer and a life-altering surgery for Mariann, who was 77 years old at the time.

Kimberly told 19 News through tear-filled eyes, “My mom and aunt were just sobbing uncontrollably, and my aunt was like, why did you do this to me? Why did you do this to me? It was just, it was shocking.”

Kimberly along with her sister Andrea said their aunt is like a second mom to them, but they say since the misdiagnosis and major surgery led to a serious decline in Cummings’ health, as well as her mental state because they say depression has set in.

Cummings’ family says a woman who was very active and independent before the lung surgery, is now only able to sit in a bedroom chair all day, has trouble breathing, and needs help to even walk a few feet to her bathroom.

Cummings’ loved ones say it wasn’t until a month after the lung surgery that doctors who were working for Summa Health allegedly admitted a terrible mistake happened, “They said that they were sorry this happened, but her biopsy had been cross-contaminated with somebody else who had cancer.”

The reason they knew this is because they sent out the samples to get DNA analysis done on them and there was not a match.

So, they knew that the biopsy they had taken from her that showed cancer - was not her biopsy.

“We were completely shocked, and at a loss for words. It was like we were in a nightmare, in a movie. We couldn’t believe this was real or this was something that would happen at a hospital.”

Since the surgery, Cummings’ loved ones also says she has had fluid build up in her lungs, that is painful and has twice undergone medical procedures to remove the fluid.

But, in court filings in response to the civil lawsuit Summa Health Systems, its doctors, and lab denied all of the allegations in the lawsuit, claiming Cummings was never told she had lung cancer, despite doctors records that were filed in the lawsuit that seem to say otherwise.

Summa Health Systems also deny that Cummings needed emergency surgery to remove any signs of lung cancer, and even denied that a biopsy was ever performed in August of 2019.

There is documentation in the lawsuit filed by Cummings attorneys that show the medical record was corrected on April 15, 2020 to correct the misdiagnoses, and the changes were made at the request of Cummings and her family.

The change in the record appear to address the error five months after the Tallmadge woman had part of her right lung removed, saying, “In the operative note, it states the patient has lung cancer. This is incorrect. The diagnosis of lung cancer was formally distributed to me, to the patient, and to the medical record based upon an incorrect biopsy assessment by the pathology department.”

The medical note filed by Cummings attorneys also says, “The pathology department was in error.”

Kimberly House says, “We want Summa to accept responsibility for what they did. They’ve changed all of our lives forever. We all feel she’s (Cummings) been robbed of years of her life. It’s heartbreaking she sits over here and cries.”

It’s important to reiterate Summa Health Systems, its doctors and Summit Pathology Associates, Inc. have denied all of the allegations in the lawsuit.

Michael Bernstein, a spokesperson for Summa Health Systems tells 19 News, “Out of respect for the legal process and all parties involved, we do not comment on active litigation.”

The victim’s family says instead of cancer, she had a lung infection called histoplasmosis, which would have simply required treatment with anti-fungal medication, not surgery.

If the case cannot be resolved outside of court, at some point the case could go to trial.