Bell Law Firm recently played an integral role in a confidential settlement against Kaiser Permanente following the death of 24-year-old Ryan Stephens.  

Case Details 

When Ryan Stephens was 24 years old, he visited his primary care doctor, Dr. Audra Ford at Kaiser Permanente in Cobb County, Georgia, reporting a mass on his left testicle. Dr. Ford did not perform a physical exam or order an ultrasound to investigate possible testicular cancer, although Kaiser’s own practice guidelines required her to do so. Instead, Dr. Ford referred Ryan to a Kaiser urologist for further evaluation. 

When Ryan returned to Kaiser for his follow-up appointment, urologist Dr. Barry Mason examined Ryan’s scrotal contents with his hands, but did not feel the mass Ryan was reporting. Dr. Mason also did not order an ultrasound to examine the testicles, but instead sent Ryan home with directions to “self examine” for possible cancerous masses. 

Ryan returned to Kaiser several months later, reporting pain in his abdomen. Dr. Ford thought Ryan had “muscle strain,” gave him a prescription and sent him home. Ryan returned two months later, this time reporting pain in his lower back. Dr. Ford examined Ryan and concluded he had a muscle strain, and sent him home once again with a prescription for muscle relaxers.  

Three months later, Ryan’s wife Courtney Stephens called 911 and told the operator that Ryan was in extreme pain and couldn’t walk. The emergency responders rushed Ryan to a nearby hospital. Ryan was soon diagnosed with metastatic testicular cancer – cancer that had spread throughout his body, including his liver. Despite heroic efforts, Ryan Stephens died just a few weeks later. 

An Avoidable Tragedy 

This was a clear case of medical malpractice. When a 24-year-old male goes to the doctor and reports feeling an unusual mass on his testicle, it is presumed to be cancer until proven otherwise. The ‘gold standard’ for diagnosing testicular cancer is an ultrasound imaging study, a simple, safe and reliable test. For reasons that are still a mystery, neither of Ryan’s two treating doctors at Kaiser ordered this simple test. As a result, Ryan’s cancer went undiagnosed for over six months until it was too late to save him. 

Unfortunately, we can’t always depend on our healthcare providers to provide the diagnostic tests that could make a vital difference in detecting potentially treatable types of cancerSelf-advocacy, not just for ourselves but our loved ones is critical. One of the best ways to be an effective advocate is to educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of cancer- many of which are very treatable when detected early.   

Signs and symptoms of testicular cancer can include: 

  1. A lump or enlargement in either testicle
  2. A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
  3. A dull ache in the abdomen or groin
  4. A sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum
  5. Pain or discomfort in a testicle or the scrotum
  6. Enlargement or tenderness of the breasts
  7. Back pain

If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these symptoms, you are encouraged to visit your primary care physician and insist on an ultrasound imaging test.  

Testicular cancer, if diagnosed early, has a cure rate of over 95 percent. If the Kaiser doctors had ordered a simple ultrasound, they would have made the cancer diagnosis months earlier, and Ryan likely would still be us today. Bell Law Firm’s hope is that Ryan’s case, while devastating, will raise awareness of the signs of testicular cancer and prevent future, unnecessary deaths from this highly treatable disease. 

If you have any questions about potential cases of negligence, in your medical care or otherwise contact us at