UPMC, cancer doctor named in lawsuit for alleged malpractice

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The husband of Ellen Kander, co-founder of the Steeltown Entertainment Project who died of liver cancer in June 2012, has sued her former physician and UPMC for medical malpractice.

A complaint filed Monday in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court alleges that Dr. Mounzer Agha was negligent in the death of Ms. Kander, 51, failing between 2008 and May 2011 to monitor or perform testing on a known liver lesion "that became a malignant tumor the size of a grapefruit and which required diagnosis at another facility."

Gregg Kander's attorney, Harry Cohen, said Ms. Kander, of Squirrel Hill, was disappointed in the care that she received at UPMC. Because they felt they were not getting a definitive answer to her medical questions and issues, Ms. Kander and her husband decided to visit the Mayo Clinic, where the tumor was diagnosed, in 2011.

Mr. Kander, executor of his wife's estate, is seeking an unspecified amount of damages.

"[Mr. Kander] believes this is what Ellen would have wanted to see carried out," Mr. Cohen said today.

Ms. Kander's liver lesion was identified in 2005 during an evaluation for a blood disorder with which she was diagnosed at age 11, and a doctor tracked her for a chronic inflammation of lymph nodes in the following years, according to the complaint.

After CT imaging again noted a lesion in September 2007, she was referred to Dr. Agha, an oncologist, who oversaw further testing. He ordered PET/CT imaging of Ms. Kander's skull through thigh in November and once more in April 2008, with results continuing to show the lesion, the lawsuit said.

During an August 2008 examination, Dr. Agha recommended "watchful waiting," the complaint states. He said he would wait to do a PET/CT until "sometime next year" but failed to schedule a scan, the complaint says.

In May 2011, Ms. Kander underwent a CT scan at the Mayo Clinic in Minneapolis that "revealed a grossly enlarged liver lesion which ultimately proved to be an 11 cm malignant liver tumor," according to the complaint.

The cancer soon spread to other organs, and Ms. Kander went through chemotherapy and pain management before becoming dependent on hospice care.

Dr. Agha and UPMC could not immediately be reached for comment.

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Gavan Gideon: ggideon@post-gazette.com or 412-263-4910.


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