Luke Cheung: Newport Beach Doctor Must Pay For Fatal Error, Appellate Court Rules


A California Court of Appeal has upheld a jury decision against a Newport Beach doctor whose botched interpretation of a computerized tomography (CT) scan led to the unnecessary death of an 85-year-old woman at Hoag Hospital in 2009.

The 16-page ruling decision announced Jan. 4, the three-justice appellate panel rejected Dr. Luke Cheung's contention that the jury erred when it determined after a trial that his failure to diagnosis Lois Shafer's intracranial bleeding prompted an emergency room doctor to discharge her from the hospital.

Several hours later at home, according to court records, Shafer's brain bleeding dramatically increased, causing severe brain damage and, after unsuccessful last minute surgery, death.
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Cheung tried to argue that Shafer died in the “natural course” of her
condition and that his misdiagnosis didn't delay the emergency surgery
12 hours later.

But in an opinion written by Justice Kathleen O'Leary,
the newly named presiding justice in Orange County, the Santa Ana-based
appellate court determined that the evidence supported the jury's
finding of medical malpractice.

O'Leary noted that an expert
testified that if Cheung had seen the bleeding then Shafer wouldn't have
been discharged, treatment would have begun quickly and the patient
“would have had a very successful outcome . . . complete recovery or
close to a complete recovery.”

The ruling means that Cheung will
have to pay the Shafer family $206,356 in damages and reimbursement
them for the expenses they incurred fighting the doctor's appeal of the
jury verdict.

Richard Taketa, a radiologist who also studied Shafer's CT scan and failed to see the bleeding, settled with the family before a trial.

The jury decided that Hoag Hospital and the emergency room doctor, Charles Goldsworthy, were not liable for the unnecessary death.

Shafer, who aided numerous Orange County philanthropic charities, was the wife of Corona del Mar businessman Dickson Shafer.

–R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly

R. Scott Moxley’s award-winning investigative journalism has touched nerves for two decades. An angry congressman threatened to break Moxley’s knee caps. A dirty sheriff promised his critical reporting was irrelevant and then landed in prison. The U.S. House of Representatives debated his work. Federal prosecutors credited his stories for the arrest of a doctor who sold fake medicine to dying patients. Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing Southern California law enforcement corruption.

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