How To Teach Melanoma Metastasis To The Jury

Melanoma is considered to be the deadliest type of skin cancer. With animation, one can illustrate the circumstances causing it to metastasize.
Photo by Olga Thelavart on Unsplash

The skin, the largest organ in the human body, has three layers. The epidermis, which is the upper layer; the dermis, which is the second layer, and directly below the dermis; and the hypodermis, which is the deepest layer. Each layer of the skin has a function it performs. For example, the epidermis contains cells called melanocytes which help determine a person’s skin tone by producing melanin. However, just like any other organ in the human body, the cells in the skin can become cancerous, causing skin cancer. One of the most deadly forms of skin cancer is melanoma.

What Is Melanoma?

Melanoma is a peculiar type of skin disease that counts as cancer. Compared to other skin cancers, it can spread to other organs of the body from the melanocytes, which are on the outermost layer of the skin.

Melanoma is a cancerous growth that starts in the melanin-producing cells of the skin, the melanocytes. Like skin moles found in any part of the body, melanoma can form in any part of the body. It sometimes starts from a normal skin mole that can change shape and disappear with age, except that in this case, rather than being harmless as a skin mole, it grows and spreads.

The actual cause of melanoma cannot be expressly stated. However, it has been noted that exposure to UV radiation can cause the melanocytes to be affected, thereby causing melanoma. 

The possible cause of melanoma isn’t restricted to UV radiation alone; it can be found in parts that are not exposed to UV rays from the sun, e.g., the palm and sole. It can also result from genetic factors and a family history of the disease. Patients with a case of immunosuppression can also be at risk of melanoma. 

Individuals with fair skin and less melanin in their skin have a higher risk of developing melanoma compared to those with a darker complexion.

According to data from the U.S. Cancer Statistics, between 2012 – 2016, about 9,008 people died from melanoma in the United States. Of this number, non-Hispanic white males had the highest mortality rate, while black and Asian/Pacific Islander females had the lowest. 

Photo by Nsey Benajah on Unsplash

What Happens When Melanoma Spreads?

The best way to save a patient from mortality via melanoma is to detect the disease early before it spreads. 

A patient whose case of melanoma was discovered while it’s still on the outer surface and less thick has a higher chance of survival. If it spreads to the lymph nodes, surgery will be required to remove the infected nodes and stop the spread to other parts of the body. However, after surgery, patients are advised to see a doctor to help prevent melanoma from recurring.

Melanoma is most dangerous if left undiagnosed or untreated until it reaches other body parts. Once the case of melanoma metastasizes, the chances of managing and living with the condition for an extended period drop significantly. 

This was the case in MacRae v. Group Health Plan, Inc. In this case, the plaintiff’s husband was diagnosed with metastatic malignant melanoma on 15/09/2004 – 44 months after having a biopsy of the lesion on his left leg. During the first biopsy, the melanoma wasn’t detected. The plaintiff’s husband died less than a year after the diagnosis of melanoma. The autopsy report affirmed that the victim died due to extensive metastatic malignant melanoma, which had spread to his brain, neck, liver, pancreas, small intestine, adrenal gland, and abdominal wall.

Visual Legal Strategy In A Melanoma Misdiagnosis, Delayed Diagnosis, Or Wrongful Death Case

Just like the case mentioned above, melanoma can cause mortality if undetected early enough by a physician. A physician can fail to perform a timely biopsy to detect this condition, leading to the spread of the disease. The affected party or their relative can sue in a case where the victim’s condition was misdiagnosed, or the victim didn’t receive proper care.

The case of Kearney v. Berger is one of the many cases where failure to perform a timely biopsy led to the victim’s death. The defendant, a physician, examined a mole on the plaintiff and failed to perform a timely biopsy. The mole turned out to be a melanoma. 

The Kerr v. Richland Memorial Hospital case is another example where a mole was allegedly misdiagnosed as benign. In contrast, it contained evidence of melanoma leading to the plaintiff’s death from melanoma cancer.

When a case involving melanoma is being tried, an attorney can use a visual legal strategy in the form of a melanoma animation to illustrate the facts around the case. 

Melanoma animation can illustrate how the condition starts from the melanocytes and metastasizes due to delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis by the physician. Also, animation can demonstrate how the tumor spreads through the body, causing pain and suffering to the patient and ultimately leading to their death.

The case of Dobran v. Franciscan Med. Ctr. is another example where melanoma animation can be used. This case involved the trial for the effectiveness of a drug – interferon alfa-2b – used in treating melanoma. In a case with similar circumstances, melanoma animation can come in handy to illustrate whether the treatment using the drug caused relief to the patient or its aggressive use caused the patient more pain and suffering.


In a court case where an attorney has decided to use animation to illustrate facts and expert opinion on the case, it’s best for such an attorney to contact a legal animation company experienced in making admissible graphics as soon as they make the decision. This will go a long way in helping the case as there will be ample time for them to study and understand the case well enough to create a case-winning animation.

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