WINCHESTER — A doctor and nurse at Shenandoah Oncology are being sued for $5 million by the family of a man who died after being prescribed a chemotherapy drug his lawyers said caused his death.
John Mark Saville, 41, of Augusta, West Virginia, died on March 30, 2019. It was the same month he began rectal cancer treatment at Shenandoah Oncology, according to a lawsuit filed in Winchester Circuit Court Monday. The plaintiff is Jamie Kesner Saville, Saville’s widow. The defendants are Dr. Matthew Page Jones, nurse practitioner Kendra D. Atherton and Winchester-based Shenandoah Oncology.
The suit, filed by Trihawk Litigation Group in Reston, said Saville was diagnosed as being in the early stages of rectal cancer. He was prescribed capecitabine, whose brand name is Xeloda. A Mayo Clinic description of capecitabine warns that people with a history of heart disease who take it can experience side effects that worsen their heart disease. But the suit said an examination of Saville by Atherton and Jones made no mention of him having a history of heart problems.
Saville began experiencing chest pain on March 26, 2019, five days after he began taking capecitabine, according to the suit. An evaluation at Winchester Medical Center found no evidence of “acute heart disease or injury” and he was discharged the same day. But he continued to experience chest pain as well as neck and shoulder pain plus dizziness and shortness of breath.
The suit said he complained about the symptoms in a March 29, 2019, visit with Atherton and Jones. They didn’t return calls from The Winchester Star on Monday and Tuesday. “Despite his specific and stated concerns that the Xeloda was causing radiating chest pain, shortness of breath, and dizziness, their conclusion was that those symptoms were not likely cardiac in origin and that it was more likely he was experiencing mucositis (a stomach inflammation) as a result of his chemotherapy,” the suit said.
Saville continued to take capecitabine and died the next day after having been found unconscious by his wife. An autopsy by the West Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner found Saville died from heart disease, “which the pathologist could not rule out as having been precipitated by the chemotherapy regimen prescribed by the defendants.” The suit said Atherton and Jones were guilty of “negligence and medical malpractice” for not taking Saville off of capcitabine and that his “readily identifiable cardiac condition went untreated,” resulting in his death.
Saville was a 1996 graduate of Hampshire High School who married in 2005 and was the father of three daughters, according to his obituary. He was a computer technician who worked for Winchester Public Schools and coached his daughters’ basketball and soccer teams in his spare time.