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Medical Malpractice: Limited ER Exam Results in Patient Death

In a medical malpractice case recently settled, patient was not thoroughly examined by Emergency Room (ER) staff. This limited ER examination ultimately caused the death of the patient.

A 35-year-old man (African-American) who was paralyzed and using a wheelchair visited the emergency room of the medical malpractice Altizer Law PC“defendant” hospital. The man’s paralysis was the result of a gunshot would 10 years earlier that injured the spine at T 3-4. The man was paralyzed from the waist down, which also involved incontinence manages with a catheter. His immune system was also compromised, as is often the case in people with spinal cord injury and paralysis.

Upon presenting at the emergency room, he complained of vomiting, diarrhea, chills, urine with a strong odor, and leg spasms. Despite his condition and the obvious limitations of paraplegia, his medical records indicated that he had a “steady” gait and that the function of his lower extremities was equal. He was given an initial “triage” evaluation and assigned to a room. He was then under the care of the defendant ER doctor and the defendant nurse.

Notes of their examination indicated the following about the man’s condition:

  • Temperature: 100.6
  • Heart rate 154
  • Respirations: 20
  • Elevated white blood count
  • Elevated red blood count
  • Low platelet count
  • High neutrophils
  • Low lymphocytes
  • Potassium was critically low
  • Anion gap was high
  • Urine was dark brown, with trace amounts of blood and protein.

The records of the ER visit contained nothing about any examination of his back or lower extremities.

Despite these observations and history, he was sent home.

The next day, he was taken back to the hospital by ambulance. The presenting issue: septic shock.

This time, he was immediately admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for treatment of a urinary tract infection. More important, he was admitted to the ICU for treatment of necrotizing fasciitis in the right foot. While being treated in the ICU, his kidneys stopped working. As a result, he was intubated and placed on ventilation. He was also treated for the necrotizing fasciitis via a number of procedures, eventually resulting in amputation of the right leg. He experienced cardiac arrest and was resuscitated successfully five times. The last effort was unsuccessful, and he died.

The patient was unmarried, and was the father of a teenaged son who lived with his mother. Father and son saw each other every two weeks, and were said to have had a good relationship. He had no dependents. He was unemployed, and lived with his grandmother. His financial support consisted of disability and the financial assistance of others.

Medical malpractice and wrongful death actions were brought against the emergency room physician and the emergency room nurse who treated him on the first visit to the hospital.

Four months before the scheduled trial date, the case was settled in mediation before the defendants had chosen the expert witnesses they planned to call upon in trial. The settlement was paid by both the defendant physician and the defendant nurse, and was for $875,000.

Medical malpractice and wrongful death typically result from mistakes, negligence, and the wrongdoing of medical staff. In this case, it could be argued that the emergency room doctor and nurse were negligent because of the notes in the patient’s records and because they did not conduct a thorough examination of the lower extremities. Further, despite clear clinical indications of infection, the man was discharged to his home.

Most medical practitioners are responsible and thorough in their treatment of patients. Sometimes, however, medical malpractice results in the wrongful death of a patient. A limited ER Examination can miss serious symptoms and their causes, resulting in medical malpractice and wrongful death.

If your loved one has suffered further injury or has died as a result of what appears to be medical malpractice, you may have the basis of a lawsuit. It is important that you consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible to discuss the events. Bettina and her team can advise you as to whether legal action seems warranted or not. We then investigate the case further and report back to you. Should you decide to proceed, we are prepared to represent you and your loved one if that is your wish.

Call Altizer Law, P.C. for compassionate yet aggressive representation that will relentlessly pursue justice and the greatest possible financial compensation.

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