Always confirm your doctor’s instructions when leaving a doctor’s office, hospital, or emergency room. It is important to understand exactly what medication you should take and when to take it; if you are to follow a particular diet or an exercise regimen; if you need to avoid certain activities, as well. These instructions and medications are vital to your recovery.
What happens if your doctor fails to explain your condition and any instructions to you before you leave the treatment area? In some cases, failure to take medication or to follow instructions can have dire circumstances.
One Virginia medical malpractice case that was recently concluded is an excellent example of the need to understand your condition and the doctor’s instructions before you leave the hospital or emergency room.
In this case, a 35-year-old woman (who was the mother of two children) awoke in the middle of the night with severe back pain. She drove herself to the local emergency room. She was placed under the care of a board-certified emergency physician.
The doctor diagnosed the patient with a urinary tract infection and a kidney store. The stone was blocking the ureter. The doctor gave her prescriptions for pain and antibiotics. She was also advised to see a urologist in the next two to four days.
When she was discharged from the emergency room, she thought that she would go home and pass the kidney stone in the next few days. She felt no need to start taking the antibiotics immediately. In the early hours of the morning, her pharmacy was closed. She proceeded to her home. She was quite tired and was in pain when she arrived at her home, and fell asleep.
When she awoke the next morning, she was experiencing altered mental status. She was then rushed back to the hospital in septic shock. She slipped into a coma, and remained so for two weeks. When she came out of the coma, the infection and gangrene had done sufficient damage that the lower part of her arm and parts of her feet were amputated.
Defense experts argued that her care and treatment were correct. They said that she should have filled the prescriptions and taken the antibiotics. Had she done so, the infection would have been controlled and her condition would not have deteriorated.
The plaintiff’s experts pointed out that a patient with an infection and a blockage can become septic very quickly. Further, they said, she should have been hospitalized or given the antibiotics in the Emergency Room. They pointed out that the standard of care required the doctor to warn her of the risk associated with her condition and of the importance of taking the antibiotics immediately.
The case was resolved in mediation. It was settled for $1,075,000 for the plaintiff.
The takeaway from this case is to:
- Repeat or rephrase the description of your condition.
- Ensure that you understand related risks.
- Ask what to watch for that would indicate a deteriorating condition.
- Know what medications you have been prescribed, when to begin taking them, and how urgent it is to begin the medication.
- Ask about any limitations on your activities.
- Ask what (besides medication) activity in necessary or should be avoided.
- If possible, get all of this information in writing.
- Follow your doctor’s instructions carefully.
- If the doctor does not provide this information, ask for it.
If you or a loved one has suffered harm due to the failure of a doctor or other medical practitioner to explain any risks involved in your condition or to follow appropriate standards of care, you may have the basis of a medical malpractice lawsuit. Call Altizer Law, P.C., for the expert legal insight and advice you need. If you decide to pursue legal action against a doctor, place your trust in the hands of Bettina Altizer, a top Roanoke VA medical malpractice attorney. When you are injured or harmed by medical malpractice, Bettina knows it’s about the money.