Trial Underway In Phoenix VA Malpractice Suit

By Matthew Casey, Carrie Jung
Published: Monday, February 27, 2017 - 1:25pm
Updated: Monday, February 27, 2017 - 6:05pm
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(Photo by Stina Sieg - KJZZ)
Phoenix VA hospital.

A full courtroom heard opening statements Monday morning in a medical malpractice lawsuit brought by an 18-year U.S. Army veteran against the Phoenix VA Health Care System.

Veteran Steven Cooper is terminally ill. His lawyers argued that would not be the case if the Phoenix VA had ordered more tests after Cooper’s 2011 prostate exam showed irregularities.

The defense argued Cooper did not have risk factors, such as family history, for early prostate cancer, and VA staff acted within the standard of care when they did not refer him for follow up tests. The defense also said the case is not about hindsight or what ifs, and it's speculation to suggest that a urologist or additional testing would have found the cancer when it was still curable.

Retired VA physician and whistleblower Dr. Sam Foote says the goal of the process should be to try to make the patient who was harmed as whole as possible again. Foote added these public proceedings won’t necessarily help officials improve conditions there.

"I don’t know how this case going public is going to make anything any easier for the VA to recruit new doctors and new staff because it just opens up old wounds to some extent," Foote said.

The trial is expected to last between five and seven days.