In early 2003, a Pennsylvania pharmacist died of a heart attack while at work. In 2009, a jury found his family doctor negligent and awarded the man’s widow $4 million. Later, after determining the delay in the conclusion of the case was improper, the presiding Judge awarded the man’s widow an additional $1.2 million in damages. Last month, the Pennsylvania Superior Court upheld that $5.2 million award in the medical malpractice case. A copy of an article regarding the case can be found here.
This case is an example of the catastrophic results of a doctor failing to correctly diagnose and treat his patient. The man went to see the doctor four days before his death as a result of unexplained chest pain, jaw pain and anxiety. The doctor advised him that these symptoms were the result of anxiety. However, the man’s attorneys argued that the the doctor made a critical error by failing to take into account the following: the man was overweight, he had high cholesterol, he had high blood pressure and he had a history of heart disease in his family. On the day of his death, the man again contacted the doctor as a result of his symptoms persisting. By the time the doctor returned his call, the man was already in cardiac arrest.
Ultimately, jurors agreed that when the doctor analyzed the man’s complaints in light of the risk factors he had, the doctor should have immediately sent the man to an emergency room because the mans’ symptoms were suggestive of a heart attack. The autopsy results further confirmed this determination as it showed heart damage, specifically indicating that the man had a heart attack a few days before his death.