A North Branford woman suing doctors at the Yale School of Medicine filed an appeal Thursday, after a Superior Court ordered the school to hand over tissue slides that may show she had been misdiagnosed with uterine cancer 10 years ago and unnecessarily underwent a total hysterectomy at Yale-New Haven Hospital, but ruled that any evidence resulting from a subsequent examination of the slides cannot be used in trial.
Plaintiff Michelle DiLieto, 53, said she is glad the court ruled in her favor but believes it is her right to use any information her personal physician gathers from the tissue samples as evidence in her medical malpractice lawsuit filed in 1997. Also responding to the court’s decision, the medical school filed a motion yesterday asking that the court order DiLieto not to speak to anyone besides her personal lawyer or physician about any new information gleaned from the slides.
Steven Ecker ’84, DiLieto’s attorney, said the defendants’ motion would prevent his client from speaking to the press, even if the tissue samples showed she had been misdiagnosed.
“It’s a classic gag order,” Ecker said. “In this case she really should be able to use the slides in any way she’d like.”
DiLieto had her uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes and related lymph nodes removed in 1995, after Yale doctors diagnosed her with a potentially fatal endometrial stromal sarcoma. Two years later, she decided to sue for malpractice after a Harvard pathologist examined her case and concluded that she had not had cancer to begin with.
Ecker said the court decision, written by Judge Carl Schuman last month, is a step in the right direction for DiLieto.
“The ruling forces Yale to turn over those slides, something which they have desperately sought to avoid for the last three years,” Ecker said. “If [the University's] analysis of those slides helped Yale, they would have just showed us, instead of just sitting on them.”
Attorney Penny Seaman of Wiggin & Dana, who is representing the defendants, declined to comment for this article. Yale spokesman Tom Conroy also declined to comment on the lawsuit, beyond saying the University is in litigation.
In his decision, Schuman cited laws granting patients the right to examine physical slides or pathology blocks of their tissue but wrote the defendants could legally withhold any of their related test results or laboratory reports.
DiLieto said she hopes her personal doctor’s analysis of the tissue slides will answer questions she has had about her health for many years.
“Judge Schuman made what I feel is the most humane decision and right decision because this is my body in question here,” DiLieto said. “The slides hold information that’s vital to my health and peace of mind. I believe I was given that operation for absolutely nothing.”
She alleged that the slides were obtained without her consent, and Yale had been irresponsible in her cancer diagnosis.