The Turning Point for Ryan Stephens

What we learned from this deposition is that when Dr. Ford entered the order for Ryan Stephens to see a urologist based on his report of a testicular mass, there was a practice guideline that presented for Dr. Ford to review which specifically says: “order an ultrasound test.” 

These practice guidelines helped break the case open, because it demonstrated that the defense was not being honest. The doctors were not being honest in their defense stating they did not need to order an ultrasound when, in fact, their own electronic healthcare record systems demonstrated that this should be the standard practice. 

This development highlighted two key problems that were critical to the case: 

  1. Dr. Mason and Dr. Ford both said they didn’t have to order an ultrasound, and that it was not required by the standard of care. That simply was not true. We revealed, through the electronic health record software, that their own guidelines required an ultrasound. 
  1. If we had relied solely on the medical records produced by Kaiser, we never would have known about these practice guidelines. It was only through a deeper, real-time inspection and demonstration of the electronic medical record software system, that we became aware of these practice guidelines. 

In the end, we were able to reach a financial settlement for a confidential sum that allowed all the parties to put this case behind them. 

Lessons Learned 

What strikes me the most about this case is how unnecessary deaths can occur due to medical malpractice. Ryan was a loving guy who had so much to offer this world. How is it that this young man – with good health insurance with Kaiser Permanente – fell through the cracks, and that they simply neglected to perform a simple test that could have made the difference between life and death?  

The biggest issue in this case was a failure on the healthcare professionals to communicate. We learned in Ryan’s case that the primary care physician and the urologist never spoke to each other. The only way they communicated about Ryan’s case was through what was typed in the electronic medical record. So, when Ryan followed up with the urologist and the urologist said he didn’t feel a lump, and dismissed him, there was no communication between Dr. Ford and the urologist. Nobody connected the dots. We hope that this case helped to educate the doctors involved to the critical need for communication.  

There are three lessons I take away from the Ryan Stephens case: 

  1. The importance of communication between healthcare professionals  
  1. How quickly a bad medical mistake can lead to a horrific outcome. Ryan went from a healthy, normal, active, working husband – and 6 months later, he’s dead at age 25. Malpractice brings immediate and very fast-acting consequences. 
  1. The need for awareness, specifically about testicular cancer. It’s important to get to the doctor quickly if something isn’t right – and to perform an ultrasound. 

Courtney never could have imagined what ultimately happened to her husband. If she did not pursue this case, she would never have understood the failures that led to her husband’s death without a thorough, detailed and diligent investigation of the medical records – both the written and electronic. 

It is our hope that entire community of patients and medical professionals can learn from this tragic example.