Articles Posted in Emergency Room Malpractice

Patients expect that their doctors will take good care of them and do whatever necessary to stabilize or treat their condition. However, one doctor – an orthopedic surgeon – recently was found guilty of medical malpractice when his actions led to his patient becoming a paraplegic; the jury awarded the patient and his wife $2.85 million.

The patient presented to the emergency room in the spring of 2004 after he suffered numerous and severe injuries in an automobile accident. While being prepped for surgery to stop the bleeding in his forearm, the treating orthopedic surgeon ordered a CT scan of the patient’s knee, which he also injured in the accident. According to the trial testimony, when the physician ordered the CT scan, the patient’s blood pressure was at a dangerously low level. The CT scan caused a nearly 30-minute delay in the patient’s surgery. During this delay, the patient went into cardiac arrest and respiratory arrest. Although two physicians nearby – an emergency room doctor and an anesthesiologist – fortunately resuscitated the patient, the delay and resulting injuries led to the death of a portion of his spinal cord, also known as a spinal cord stroke. Tragically, he suffered permanent paralysis from just above the waist down.

According to the lawyers and experts who testified at the trial, the patient’s extremely low blood pressure should have alerted doctors and nurses that he was on the verge of a cardiac arrest and that to interrupt the necessary treatment of the patient’s arm was negligent. Several doctors further testified that the patient should not have been transferred from the pre-operative holding area when his vital signs were as low as they were – even the experts for the defendant physician. Various witness accounts and medical records also presented at trial revealed that the patient’s blood pressure and pulse remained at zero after the cardiac arrest, leaving his body without blood flow for approximately eight to twenty-seven minutes.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for doctors and hospitals to misdiagnose a stroke in a younger person. Many people think that strokes only happen to older people. In reality, doctors around the world treat otherwise healthy people in their 30s, 40s and 50s who have had strokes, sometimes totally out-of-the-blue.

Misdiagnosis of stroke is a major medical malpractice problem that can have catastrophic consequences. In a landmark study in 2009, doctors found that young people who are having a stroke are misdiagnosed by emergency rooms 14 percent of the time. Such a misdiagnosis results in critical delay in treating stroke. As one of the authors of the study said, “early intervention is the most critical component of effective stroke care.

Doctors have known for decades that stroke symptoms include, but are not limited to: sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body; sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; and/or sudden, severe headache with no known cause. When a patient has any of these symptoms, the must be carefully evaluated for a stroke.

A South Carolina jury has awarded $3 million in a medical malpractice case to the family of a 25-year-old woman who died after medical treatment in 2002. The woman died from an infection due to a kidney stone. After the treatment at a local emergency room, the woman was discharged and due to check-up with a urologist the following Monday. However, before she could see the doctor, she died from an infection. The jury found that the emergency room and hospital did not meet the standard of care when they failed to take appropriate vital signs and perform basic testing, which would have resulted in proper diagnosis and treatment of the infection.

This sounds like a very good case. It is important for all health care providers to obtain baseline vital signs on a patient and perform reasonable tests that can diagnose serious problems that are likely. In this case, the doctors diagnosed a kidney stone but did not do the routine blood testing that would have revealed that the woman actually was very sick. Instead, she was sent home with the false assurance that she could wait a few days to be seen. It is tragic.

As an experienced Baltimore, Maryland medical malpractice lawyer, I have handled many medical malpractice cases failure to timely perform appropriate medical tests that would have revealed a serious illness. It is always a shame when a simple and routine test is not performed, resulting in a serious injury or death.

A Pennsylvania jury has awarded $1.2 million to the widow of a man in a medical malpractice suit against a hospital and two doctors. The man died in 1999, two days after he was sent home from an emergency room, complaining he had chest pains and had been vomiting for three days. An autopsy determined that he had an ulcerated esophagus and the cause of death was sepsis caused by the perforated esophagus, which allowed food to go into his pleural cavity. A copy of an article regarding the case can be found here.

As an experienced Baltimore, Maryland medical malpractice lawyer, I have successfully handled a number of medical malpractice cases against emergency room doctors for failing to timely diagnose and treat life threatening conditions. The rule is “if there is any doubt, you can’t rule it out.” Here, a simple radiology test, such as an x-ray or esophageal sonogram would have showed what was going on with this man. To see some of the cases I have handled, click here.

A retired naval officer has settled has case with a Naval Hospital in Florida for close to $1 million after claiming that the hospital negligently handled his medical treatment and caused doctors to remove part of his brain. The officer, now 42 is now permanently and totally disabled and unable to support his family. He settled his medical malpractice case for $625,000 in cash along with monthly payments of $1,600 for the rest of his life (an annuity valued at about $325,000). The settlement was approved this month after the officer filed a lawsuit against the Navy that was scheduled for a jury trial in September. The lawsuit stemmed from treatment the man received in March 2007, when he went to the naval hospital complaining of severe headaches. The Hospital initially diagnosed the man with viral meningitis and discharged him that month. He still was suffering severe headaches and went to a nearby civilian hospital where he was correctly diagnosed with viral encephalitis. The delayed diagnosis resulted in severe brain swelling and doctors subsequently had to remove parts of the man’s brain. Federal law prohibits people in the armed forces from suing the military, but the man’s case was able to be filed because he was retired at the time of the incident. A copy of the article regarding the case can be found here .

As an experienced Baltimore, Maryland medical malpractice lawyer, I have handled several federal tort claims act cases and military claims act cases. It is always tragic when a military hospital mistreats a member of the service who has given some much to our country. To see some of the cases I have handled, click here .

As an experienced Baltimore, Maryland medical malpractice lawyer, I am frequently asked to comment on malpractice cases from around the county. Recently, a Philadelphia jury awarded $2.185 million in a medical malpractice case in which it was alleged that a hospital and two emergency room doctors failed to timely read x-rays. The patient came to the ER at 8:35 am after experiencing chest, back and leg pains. He was quickly seen by a doctor, who ordered x-rays. After the x-rays were done, the emergency room doctor should have reviewed them before they were sent to radiology, but that did not happen. Because no one looked x-rays that day, no one realized that they showed a dissecting aortic aneurysm, a condition in which blood gets between the layers of the aorta wall and fills up the sac surrounding the heart, tightening it until the heart is not able to pump. The patient died at 7:05 pm from the undiagnosed condition.

The key to these cases, in addition to proving that the standard of care is to timely and properly read the x-ray, is to make sure that the there would have been enough time to do the life-saving surgery that this man needed. That requires a cardiothoracic or vascular surgery expert. In this case, this man had a condition that can kill him in minutes. The doctors in this case needed to quickly act on his complaints and not let the x-rays sit around in the hospital while this man died. It is a true tragedy.

I have handled a large number of medical malpractice cases in Baltimore, Maryland and other places involving emergency room mistakes. Some of the cases I have handled have involved medical malpractice due to the failure to properly evaluate a heart attack, failure to properly evaluate a drug reaction, failure to properly perform a suicide assessment, failure to diagnose a pulmonary embolism, failure to diagnose an abdominal aortic aneurysm, and failure to diagnose an aortic dissection which is exactly what happened in this case. To see some of the cases I have handled, click here .

A jury awarded approximately $11 million to a woman who became partially paralyzed after waiting two hours for a hospital brain scan. Jurors found that the hospital was negligent in caring for the woman after she fractured her skull in a fall in 2004. The woman was cleared for a brain scan two hours before she got one. The test was ordered to check for bleeding. Because of the delay, the woman allegedly lapsed into a coma in the emergency room less than an hour after the scan. She now has no movement in her left side and uses a wheelchair.

I have successfully handled a number of emergency room medical malpractice cases in Baltimore and other counties in Maryland. Emergency room doctors are required to recognize serious medical conditions and admit patients who require significant treatment. Some of the cases I have handled alleged a failure to properly diagnose a heart attack, failure to diagnose and admit a suicidal patient, failure to diagnose pulmonary embolism, failure to diagnose an abdominal aortic aneurysm, failure to diagnose brain injury, etc.

We handle cases like these all of the time in my practice.

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