Summary Judgment Granted in a Case Involving the Administration of Radioactive Iodine (I-131)

by | Jun 4, 2020 | Case Results, Medical Malpractice | 0 comments

Senior Partner Rosaleen T. McCrory, Partner Samantha E. Shaw, and Associate Nicole S. Barresi’s Motion for Summary Judgment was granted dismissing the sole-named defendant physician from the action, venued in Supreme Court, New York County.  This case involved a then 54-year-old plaintiff who had prior history of thyroid cancer for which the plaintiff had a partial thyroidectomy.  In the years following that procedure, secondary to a suspicion of recurrent thyroid cancer, the patient was referred to the defendant who performed for a thryogen-stimulated whole body scan with radioactive iodine I-131.  The scan was performed and the defendant doctor did not identify any metastatic tissue.  Plaintiff claimed that the I-131 permanently destroyed his remnant thyroid which caused his TSH levels to spike and necessitated an increase in his dosage of Synthroid.  Plaintiff claimed that I-123 should have been used and that plaintiff was not given informed consent on the risks associated with using I-131 nor was plaintiff advised of the alternative I-123. 

In the motion, we argued that the dose of I-131 administered did not cause damage to plaintiff’s remnant thyroid, the low dose of I-131 administered was just as safe as I-123, and that the longer half-life of I-131 made it a superior iodine to use in detecting metastatic disease.  Regarding lack of informed consent, we similarly argued that there was no risk of using a low dose of I-131 and that I-123 had a much shorter half-life making it not a reasonably viable alternative option for detection of metastatic tissue.  As to causation, we asserted that there was no damage to the plaintiff from I-131.  We argued that plaintiff already required Synthroid for the remainder of his life following the partial thyroidectomy years earlier, and as natural course, his TSH levels and the dosing amount of Synthroid would fluctuate overtime.  Furthermore, since the plaintiff’s body was no longer relying on plaintiff’s thyroid for hormone, we asserted that the remnant thyroid would eventually atrophy on its own.

The Court, finding that we made our prima facie case, ultimately granted defendant’s motion as plaintiff failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether any alleged destruction of plaintiff’s thyroid tissue caused any injury since plaintiff was already on Synthroid, the dosage of which was going to increase over time.  The Court found that plaintiff failed to show a causal connection between the elevated TSH levels and the scan, and failed to controvert defendant’s argument that the plaintiff was eventually able to return to his pre-scan dosage level of Synthroid and thereby failed to refute defendant’s assertions that there was no permanent damage to plaintiff’s remnant thyroid secondary to I-131. For similar reasons, the Court also dismissed the lack of informed consent claims finding that plaintiff failed to show any causal connection between the injuries and the alleged failure to obtain informed consent.