PARKERSBURG - Since losing her battle with cancer, a Pleasants County woman's estate soon will be amending her medical malpractice suit against a Wood County hospital and New York physician into a claim for wrongful death.

In August, Barbara Lauer filed a medical malpractice suit against St. Joseph's Healthcare System and Dr. M. Akhtar Cheema. St. Joseph's Healthcare System is a Houston, Texas-based company that operates St. Joseph's Hospital in Parkersburg where Cheema worked temporarily as a pathologist.

According to the state Board of Medicine's Web site, Cheema now works at the Brooklyn Hospital's Department of Pathology in Brooklyn, N.Y.

In her suit, Lauer alleged each was negligent in failing to timely diagnose a mole/lesion found on her scalp in 2005 as cancerous. It wasn't until the mole/lesion returned, and both the first and second samples were sent to Cornell University for evaluation was it discovered she had a malignant melanoma.

After a third surgery and a full body CT scan in August 2006, a year after the first mole/lesion was removed, it was reveled that the cancer had spread to other areas of her body. Eventually, Lauer would have to later undergo a fourth surgery for removal of lymph nodes from her neck.

Due to Cheema's and St. Joseph's failure to detect the tissue samples as cancerous, Lauer alleged that she was left to suffer a "permanent and deadly injury" which limits her "ability to fully function, live life, and fully live her life into the future."

On Jan. 28, Lauer's allegation would prove prophetic as she died at age 65 at her home in St. Marys. Her immediate cause of death, according to her death certificate, was metastatic malignant melanoma.

Lauer's death was not disclosed in court records until April 30 when St. Joseph's filed a formal notice. Her attorney, David A. Jividen Jr., said Lauer's suit would now be pursued by her estate, and amended to include a wrongful death action following the appointment an executor.

A hearing was scheduled for May 13 to consider a motion by the estate to amend the complaint. However, Jividen said the hearing was cancelled due to an emergency in Judge Jeffrey B. Reed's family.

A check with both Reed's office and the Wood Circuit Clerk showed that no new hearings in the case have been scheduled through July.

In their respective replies to Lauer's suit, Cheema and St. Josephs denied any negligence saying that any damages she suffered were outside for their control. Also, both asked that the case be dismissed citing the Medical and Professional Liability Act - Cheema on the grounds Lauer failed to submit both the 30-day pre-suit notice and certificate of merit, and St. Joseph's on the grounds that Cheema was an independent contractor with more than $1 million in liability insurance coverage.

Wood Circuit Court case number 08-C-508

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