On August 7, 2013, a Maryland medical malpractice jury in a very conservative jurisdiction returned a $958,000 verdict in favor of the family of a woman who was given palliative care in a hospital instead of continuing medical treatment for her severe leg ulcers. The 62-year-old woman died a few days after she was allegedly given excessive amounts of morphine, oxycodone, and other narcotics at which time the hospital staff was providing only palliative care to the woman.
The woman was admitted to the hospital on February 12, 2010 for treatment of her bilateral leg ulcers. On February 17, 2010, she had extensive debridement of her ulcers that extended down to the bone. On February 22, 2010, she had further surgery to perform a diverting colostomy. Four days later, the woman’s family was advised that her prognosis was bleak and it was suggested that the family consider palliative care. The family responded that they “had to think about it, talk about it” before they would make their decision.
Despite the family not having given clear consent for palliative care, which was allegedly required under the standard of care, the very next day the hospital administered the excessive narcotics while also withholding antibiotics from the woman’s treatment. As a result, the woman went into a coma and died on March 1, 2010.
After seven days of trial and four and a half hours of jury deliberations, the Maryland medical malpractice jury awarded $50,000 in noneconomic damages to the woman’s estate for her wrongful death, $8,238.05 in economic damages to the woman’s estate, and $300,000 each to the woman’s surviving husband and two adult children. The defendant hospital has indicated its intent to file an appeal.
Source (The Daily Record, August 13, 2013): Gargiulo, et al v. Upper Chesapeake Health Center, Circuit Court for Harford County, Case No. 12-C-12-001372.
What Is Palliative Care?
According to the World Health Organization (“WHO”), palliative care improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing life-threatening illness through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification, assessment, and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial, and spiritual. Palliative care provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms; affirms life and regards dying as a normal process; intends neither to hasten nor postpone death; integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care; offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible until death; offers a support system to help the family cope during the patient’s illness and in their own bereavement; uses a team approach to address the needs of patients and their families, including bereavement counseling, if indicated; enhances quality of life and may also positively influence the course of illness; and, is applicable early in the course of illness, in conjunction with other therapies that are intended to prolong life, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and includes those investigations needed to better understand and manage distressing clinical complications.
If you or a loved one suffered serious harms as a result of possible medical malpractice in Maryland or in another U.S. state, you should promptly seek the legal advice of a Maryland medical malpractice attorney (or a medical malpractice attorney in your state) who may investigate the cause(s) of the harms you suffered and represent you in a malpractice case, if appropriate.
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