Two physicians who work at Massachusetts General Hospital (“MGH”) agreed earlier this month to pay $4.5 million to the family of a 62-year-old woman who died due to the alleged delay in providing her with timely medical care while she was in the hospital. The woman had been transferred to MGH the day before from another Massachusetts hospital because it was considered that MGH was better equipped to treat the woman’s condition.
The woman had fallen from a six-foot ladder on March 23, 2005, which she was using to clean her home. She was brought by ambulance to the local hospital, where a scan of her pelvis and chest determined that the woman had fractured several ribs. One of those fractured ribs was injured so that a sharp tip was perilously close to her aorta.
According to the Massachusetts medical malpractice claim, the two MGH physicians evaluated the woman’s condition upon her arrival at MGH but failed to order a chest x-ray and failed to surgically reduce the displaced rib fracture at that time. Instead, they monitored the woman’s condition overnight. She was give an epidural for pain and she was also noted to have a bad cough.
The next morning, the woman was in her hospital bed when she coughed, causing the jagged end of her rib to penetrate her aorta. She then went into cardiac arrest. A surgical team was able to clamp the woman’s aorta, but she did not respond to treatment. In less than twenty minutes after she went into cardiac arrest, she was pronounced dead. An autopsy found a one-centimeter hole in the woman’s aorta near to the tip of the displaced rib.
The settlement was reached two weeks into the Massachusetts medical malpractice trial.
After the settlement was reached, a spokesperson for MGH said that MGH supports the two physicians, who it believes to have acted appropriately with regard to the woman’s care: “It is disheartening when physicians who take on some of the most difficult cases and are committed to doing what they can to save lives are faced with malpractice litigation. Now that this matter is behind us, these doctors can get back to doing what they do best — caring for patients.”
The woman’s three children probably take little solace in the past competence of the physicians at MGH who were responsible for their mother’s care and who decided to delay taking a chest x-ray and deferred surgical treatment the evening when the woman arrived at MGH from another hospital. No matter how dedicated or competent the physicians may have been in the past, or how they may treat future patients who arrive at MGH, such past or future efforts cannot bring the woman back to life or console her children for their loss.
If you or a loved one were harmed as a result of medical negligence in Massachusetts or in another U.S. state, you should promptly consult with a Massachusetts medical malpractice attorney or a medical malpractice attorney in your state who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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