Articles Posted in Emergency Room Malpractice

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After a 54 year-old woman had to have amputations of both of her legs above the knees, her left arm below the elbow, and fingers from her right hand, she sued the healthcare providers in South Carolina whom she believed to be responsible.  The lawsuit alleged that the doctors failed to recognize that the woman was delving deep into deep septic shock.

When she arrived in the emergency department, she was not seen by a physician for five hours, despite the fact that she had a rapid respiratory rate of 28, a heart rate of 155 a low oxygen level of 89 percent and a fever of 103.1 degrees Fahrenheit.  She also was not given her first dose of antibiotics until some fourteen hours after admission, despite orders that such antibiotics be administered hours earlier.  She arrested in the emergency room and was successfully resuscitated.  From that point, her extremities started mottling and she began showing additional signs of ischemia (inadequate blood flow).  Thereafter she was transferred to another hospital where she underwent a triple amputation to save her life.

The jury’s award included $10 million for economic damages such as last wages and earning capacity and past and future medical and other care expenses that she will require for the remainder of her life.  The remainder of the award was for the woman’s non-economic damages for pain, suffering, mental anguish and emotional distress.  The defendants’ overarching position at trial was that the woman was admitted with two life-threatening conditions and that the care provided to her in fact saved her life.  Our Maryland medical malpractice lawyers have decades of experience litigating emergency room malpractice cases.  If you or a loved one were the victim of a similar, or any type of medical mistake, call us today for a free consultation at 410-385-2225.

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In late May of 2012, a 75 year-old woman presented to the hospital with a deep vein thrombosis blood clot in her leg.  She was treated and discharged days later with instructions to take blood thinners.  Less than a week after she was discharged, she awoke in the middle of the night with excruciating pain in the hip and groin area.  She was taken via ambulance to the hospital where she came under the care of two separate physicians over a period of ten hours during which time no diagnostic tests were ordered or performed.  She subsequently was discharged to a nursing home with a diagnosis of musculoskeletal pain which the physicians had attributed to the woman’s deep vein thrombosis blood clot a week earlier.

A day later, the nursing home staff found the woman to be in hemorrhagic shock.  She was rushed back to the emergency room but ultimately died six weeks later.  The lawsuit alleged that the Defendant physicians failed to timely diagnose and treat what turned out to be a retroperitoneal hematoma, which is an accumulation of blood in the portion of the abdomen called the retroperitoneal space.

After a six-day trial and nine hours of deliberation, the jury awarded the plaintiffs a total of $547,510 which included $8,900 in funeral expenses, $127,000 to her husband for loss of consortium, $125,000 to her estate for her conscious pain and suffer prior to her death, $125,000 to the husband for his pain and suffering as the result of the loss of his wife, and $30,000 to each of her five adult children for the loss of their mother.

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The majority of medical malpractice cases are litigated in the State Court where the malpractice is alleged to have occurred. When the healthcare facility where the malpractice allegedly occurred receives federal funding, the lawsuit usually is filed in Federal Court where it is defended by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. That is what occurred in recent case that resulted in a $9 million award to the surviving family members of a 40 year old mother of six who lost her own life and that of her unborn child at a Chicago hospital.

The patient – who was seven months pregnant at the time – presented to the hospital with a chief complaint of shortness of breath. She was diagnosed with pneumonia but kept in a regular room instead of being transferred to the intensive care unit and without being given any substantive treatment, according to the lawsuit. When her condition worsened, nurses tried to contact her doctor by phone but were no successful. The suit alleged that instead of transferring her, the nurses did nothing. Approximately one hour after the nurses’ last call to the doctor, the patient was found unresponsive and could not be revived. Upon an emergency cesarean-section, the child was delivered still-born. At trial, the nurses and doctor each pointed the finger at the others.

The Maryland medical malpractice attorneys at Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White have successfully handled a number of medical negligence cases in the Federal Court system. Because some of the substantive and procedural rules are different in Federal Court than in garden-variety State Court cases, it is important to choose a malpractice attorney with experience trying such cases. If you or a loved one may have been the victim of a medical mistake, call us today at 410-385-2225.

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This month, a Carroll County jury awarded $570,000 to the estate and surviving family members of a woman whose internal bleeding went undiagnosed, resulting in her untimely death.

The woman presented to the emergency room with a chief complaint of swelling in her left leg and was diagnosed with acute deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, was admitted and given blood thinners. She remained in the hospital for five days before being discharged with prescriptions for two blood thinners. One of the medications required regular monitoring with a test known as INR to ensure the correct dosage. A low INR is an indicator for increasing the dosage and vice versa.

Days after her release from the hospital, her INR score was below the recommended low range and so her physicians recommended increasing the dosage. Thereafter, she woke up with severe pain in her hip and pelvis which the patient’s lawyers argued were tell-tale signs of a hematoma. She returned to the emergency room by ambulance where she was given painkillers and evaluated by a physician’s assistant. At that point, she was unable to walk and complained of spasms in her thigh. No testing or scans were ordered despite the fact that her pain was not responding to narcotic pain medication. Instead, she was transferred to a nursing home facility.

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A jury in Washington State has awarded more than $1.5 million dollars to a carpenter and his wife after a physician failed to timely diagnose the 56 year-old man’s compartment syndrome. Compartment syndrome is a condition in which swelling compresses muscles, nerves and blood vessels within an area of the body, restricting the flow of oxygen which in turn destroys nerves and muscles. It was the plaintiffs’ position that compartment syndrome must be addressed within six hours of injury to optimize the outcome of the patient.

In the case, the patient fell sixteen feet from scaffolding onto concrete at his job and was airlifted to a local hospital for treatment. At 7:45 p.m., his wife urged hospital staff to summon a physician to examine her husband but it was not until 2:24 a.m. the following morning that a first-year orthopedic resident examined him. At that time, he merely was given morphine which masked the pain. The resident again examined him at 6 a.m. but again failed to diagnose the process in the man’s left hand. It wasn’t until a 7 a.m. examination by a surgeon – more than twelve hours after the initial injury – that it was determined that the man’s hand was completely numb and that he was suffering from significant compartment syndrome.

At 9 a.m. surgical intervention began. Physicians cut the fibrous tissue enclosing the muscle to relieve the pressure and get the blood and oxygen flowing again. Unfortunately, it was too late as the man had permanently lost all use of his left hand which was described in the lawsuit as a “useless and grotesquely deformed limb.” Not surprisingly, the doctor and hospital took the positions that reasonable care was provided and that it was the patient’s unusual presentation that made his condition difficult to quickly diagnose, positions which ultimately were not accepted by the jury.

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A Philadelphia jury last week awarded more than $10 million to a now-six year-old boy and his family against a hospital and its physicians who delayed significantly in diagnosing the child’s bacterial meningitis.

The boy – at the time just 11 months old – was taken to the emergency room on December 21, 2009 with a fever and other symptoms that had been persistent over a number of days. He was diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection and sent home. When his symptoms worsened overnight, the boy was returned to the hospital with an even higher fever, an elevated respiratory rate and an elevated heart rate. According to the plaintiffs’ experts, at this critical juncture the standards of acceptable medical care required that the boy be tested for a bacterial infection. However, he was again sent home with no such test was administered.

Upon arriving at the emergency room for a third time, it took hours for blood work to be completed and even longer for medical personnel to administer the antibiotics necessary to combat the infection. By then, the child had suffered significant, irreversible brain damage. Now almost seven years old chronologically, the child is functioning at the developmental level of a three year-old. At trial, the defense took the position that with conservative treatment at the hospital during the first two visits, the boy’s symptoms – which they believed to be consistent with mere bronchitis – seemed to subside, indicating that such conservative treatment was working and leading them to believe discharging him was appropriate. The jury’s $10.1 million award was comprised of $1.5 million for future medical care, $1.1 million for loss of earning capacity and $7.5 million for pain, suffering and mental anguish.

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Lithium is an often-prescribed psychiatric medication used to treat select health conditions such as bipolar disorder and depression. Doctors have long understood that extended lithium intake can have long-term side effects most often effecting the kidneys and thyroid gland. Specifically, lithium can reduce the ability of the kidneys to concentrate urine, leading to dilution and polyuria (excessive urination). Lithium is not metabolized and is excreted almost exclusively through the kidneys. Monitoring kidney function is therefore an essential component of ongoing lithium therapy.

The most common early symptoms of lithium toxicity are abdominal pain, loss of urinary control, constipation, weakness and tremors. Symptoms associated with moderate to severe lithium toxicity include an altered mental status associated with dysarthria (motor speech disorder affecting muscles in the mouth/face), ataxia (lack of muscle coordination affecting speech/walking/eye movements), diarrhea, nausea, shaking or trembling and impaired cognitive function. Chronic lithium users also are at a heightened risk for developing nephrogenic diabetes insipidus (NDI), a form of diabetes characterized by excessive or uncontrolled urination. NDI is considered the most severe complication of lithium toxicity and patients with NDI must be closely monitored for dehydration due to their excretion of extraordinarily large volumes of urine. The combination of increasing levels of lithium and severe dehydration will, if not timely treated, result in acute toxicity of the kidney. Unfortunately, even after the acute toxicity is resolved, a significant number of patients suffer permanent neurologic damage.

When a patient on a lithium regimen presents with symptoms such as weakness, imbalance and urinary incontinence, the standard of acceptable medical care requires the treating doctor to appreciate and diagnose an acute presentation of developing lithium toxicity. Fast-tracked laboratory studies (bloodwork and urine) will quickly demonstrate the patient’s elevated lithium level and signal to the doctor to stop the lithium intake and start intravenous hydration. The failure to rapidly recognize these symptoms of lithium toxicity and reverse the process can have devastating impacts on the neurological function and overall future well-being of the patient.

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At the conclusion of a three-week trial, a Baltimore City jury last week awarded $28 million to a 47 year-old man whose perforated ulcer went undiagnosed, resulting in significant complications and life-altering deteriorations in his health. The man had a history of Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract. However, his Chron’s had not caused him any significant trouble since a surgical procedure in 2000.

In May of 2011, the patient presented to an area hospital with severe, burning left-sided pain radiating to his chest. Rather than rule out an upper gastrointestinal illness, the treating physician treated him for a flare-up of his Chron’s and discharged the patient thereafter. Some eight days later, the patient returned to the hospital with nearly identical symptoms and, again, the treating physicians failed to consider an upper gastrointestinal illness. As the result of the misdiagnosis, a duodenal ulcer was perforated. An ulcer is an open sore or lesion, usually found on the skin or mucous membrane areas of the body. A duodenal ulcer is a sore or lesion that occurs in the upper area of the small intestine.

The physicians decided to perform surgery on this patient’s abdomen to determine what was happening. During the surgery, the surgeon missed the perforated ulcer and, instead, removed a portion of the patient’s bowel. At the end of that procedure, the surgeon performed intestinal anastomosis, a surgical procedure to establish communication between two formerly distant portions of the intestine. However, the failure to address the perforated ulcer caused the intestinal anastomosis to break down, resulting in the need for dozens of future surgeries and further resection of the patient’s bowel. As the result of these physicians’ negligence, the patient suffers from significant health problems and can only take in nutrition through a feeding tube.

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Tragically, a medical condition or injury sometimes results in death for too many individuals, particularly young children. This is a loss that no parent should have to experience in his or her lifetime. Often, there is nothing that can be done to prevent these tragedies. However, there are occasional incidents in which a child’s death could have been prevented, but wasn’t. In these situations, errors by medical professionals and hospitals are crucial and sometimes may be the bases for medical malpractice lawsuits. Medical malpractice suits function to hold these professionals and hospitals accountable when they fail to meet the appropriate standards of care and injury or death results. Medical malpractice can take many forms, including a misdiagnosis. Recently, this prompted a medical malpractice lawsuit by a Dallas couple whose six-year-old boy died after treatment by an emergency physician at a Texas medical center. A copy of the article regarding the recent medical malpractice case can be found here.

According to the medical malpractice suit, on May 8, the young boy injured his back after running into a pole and falling on the concrete playground at his elementary school. The boy subsequently received treatment from an emergency physician as well as other hospital personnel at the children’s medical center. The medical malpractice complaint alleges that the boy initially complained of back and abdominal pain, and was noticeably pale and in significant pain. The treating physician ordered multiple tests, which revealed the boy had an elevated white blood cell count and was showing signs of constipation.

Ultimately, the boy was given medication for his vomiting and at least one enema before discharging him with a diagnosis of constipation. Four hours after he was discharged, the young boy tragically died.

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A Massachusetts jury recently has found that a doctor at a hospital in Boston was guilty of medical malpractice that caused the sudden death of a 23-year-old man, and awarded the family $4.8 million in the medical malpractice case.

Apparently, the patient visited the emergency room on August 14, 2006, with symptoms of a cough, fever, and chest pains. After a very brief visit with a physician at the hospital, the patient was diagnosed with bronchitis and discharged shortly thereafter. The physician prescribed antibiotics and painkillers and suggested he get plenty of rest. Sadly, early the next morning, the patient was found dead in his bed. A copy of the article regarding the medical malpractice case can be found here.

Medical examiners subsequently identified the patient’s cause of death as myocarditis, a virus that affects the heart muscle through infection and inflammation. An electrocardiogram would have revealed this condition. However, and despite the fact that an electrocardiogram is routine for patients complaining of chest pains, the physician did not order that test. The medical malpractice lawsuit alleged that the patient’s condition was preventable, had his physician spent the appropriate time caring for the patient.