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. A copy of the article regarding the case can be found here.
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.
At trial, the jury determined the doctors were negligent when they removed the patient from the pre-operative holding area and ordered him to be taken for the CT scan despite the patient’s grave and unstable vital signs at the time. As a result of this medical negligence, the jury awarded a total of $2.85 million: $2.3 million to the patient, and $550,000 to his wife, also his caregiver. A confidential settlement with the medical center, where the medical malpractice occurred, also was entered.
When determining or administering an appropriate course of treatment, it is crucial that physicians evaluate the patient’s overall condition, including vital signs. When a physician is negligent by breaching a duty of care to the patient, there may be serious and permanent consequences. Surgical errors and other medical malpractice suits often are complex and require expertise. Our experienced medical malpractice attorneys have handled numerous cases involving this type of medical negligence, as well as many others. Please contact one of our medical malpractice attorneys if you or a loved one has been tragically affected by a physician’s negligence.