A 49-year-old man went to his primary care physician with complaints of chest pain. The doctor diagnosed gastrointestinal problems without taking a full and complete medical history from the patient that would have discovered prior complaints of chest pain that should have led to further inquiry and cardiac testing that would have disclosed an underlying serious heart condition. The patient died a few weeks later from a massive heart attack while undergoing hip surgery that his primary care physician would have recommended against had the heart problem been properly and timely diagnosed.
The resulting medical malpractice case against the hospital, primary care physician, and surgeon alleged that the primary care physician and surgeon were negligent and that their negligence led to the man’s death. The medical malpractice case was tried before a jury twice. The first medical malpractice trial resulted in a $10 million verdict in favor of the plaintiffs. As a result of a successful appeal filed by the medical malpractice defendants, the case had to be re-tried before another jury. (The hospital and the surgeon settled with the plaintiffs before the trial.)
The second medical malpractice jury again found in favor of the plaintiffs and this time awarded damages in the amount of $22.5 million against the primary care physician (75% at fault) and the surgeon (25% at fault), which was reduced due to the surgeon’s prior out-of-court settlement with the plaintiffs. The primary care physician blamed the surgeon during the trial for the surgeon’s failure to perform pre-operative testing that would have discovered the man’s heart condition that would have led to the surgery being canceled and also blamed the surgeon for the surgeon’s failure to respond appropriately to the patient’s complaints of chest pain and nausea post-operatively.
When a patient complains of chest pain, the physician should undertake an adequate and detailed inquiry about the symptoms including prior episodes of chest pain and the nature, extent, and duration of the chest pain before diagnosing gastrointestinal problems (patients can suffer from both cardiac problems and gastrointestinal problems at the same time).
It appears that the Connecticut man did what he was supposed to do — he sought the medical advice of his primary care physician when he experienced chest pain. He must have felt great relief when his doctor told him that he had a relatively minor gastrointestinal problem. Patients reasonably rely on the professional opinions of their medical care providers because they are the experts with the knowledge, education, and training to make medical diagnoses and decisions that affect their patients’ health. When medical professionals are negligent in their care and treatment of their patients, the law holds them responsible for the foreseeable results caused by their substandard care.
When the medical malpractice committed by medical providers causes injuries to their patients, the victims of the medical malpractice should seek legal advice from medical malpractice attorneys concerning their right to file medical malpractice cases.
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