A federal judge in New Hampshire entered an order on April 3, 2015, finding in favor of the medical malpractice plaintiff in his Federal Tort Claims Act lawsuit against the United States for the negligent medical care he received at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Manchester, New Hampshire during October 2010 after he suffered a stroke.
The judge of the United States District Court for the District of New Hampshire directed the clerk of the court to enter judgment in favor of the Navy veteran in the amount of $21,468,710.62 (including $8,100,000.00 in economic damages), and an additional $100,000.00 in favor of his wife, to be paid in lump sum, with the amount awarded for medical care ($13,368,710.62) placed in trust for the benefit of the plaintiff.
As the federal judge stated in her Memorandum and Order, it is a basic principle of medicine that a patient who has suffered a stroke is generally at an elevated risk of suffering a second stroke. Therefore, physicians who are treating stroke patients must be cognizant of this risk, and they must take steps to prevent a second stroke from occurring. As such, the established standard of care requires that a stroke patient undergo a thorough diagnostic evaluation to determine the cause of his stroke, and it requires that the patient be prescribed certain medication to treat the underlying condition that caused the stroke to occur.
The federal judge found that the plaintiff’s doctors at the VA Medical Center in Manchester, New Hampshire (“VA Medical Center”) did not adhere to the standard of care by failing to provide him with an adequate diagnostic evaluation (when a patient presents to the emergency room after suffering an ischemic stroke, the standard of care requires the treating physician to promptly order the following tests (in no particular order): a CT scan, a CTA, an EKG, and an echocardiogram). In addition, the treating physician should promptly engage the services of a cardiologist and a neurologist to evaluate the patient, and the physician should contact the patient’s primary care physician to make him aware of the stroke and to ensure the continuity of the patient’s care. The treating physician should admit the patient to the hospital to facilitate the diagnostic process.
Based on the parties’ experts’ testimony during trial, the federal judge determined that it was more likely than not that the plaintiff’s first stroke was caused by a cardioembolic blood clot, meaning a blood clot that formed in his heart that traveled through his blood stream to his brain. The federal judge found that the plaintiff was at high risk of a second cardioembolic blood clot, and therefore the standard of care required that he be treated with Coumadin to prevent a second stroke (the VA physicians had prescribed Aspirin therapy but did not prescribe Coumadin; the federal judge rejected the defense argument that treatment with either Aspirin or Coumadin was equally appropriate for the plaintiff).
The federal judge determined that the overwhelming weight of the experts’ testimony, coupled with the scientific studies introduced during trial, established that Coumadin more likely than not would have prevented the plaintiff’s second stroke. The federal judge determined that the plaintiff’s treating physicians carelessly prescribed the 60-year-old disabled Navy veteran the wrong medication and medically abandoned him. As a result, the plaintiff suffered a massive second stroke about six weeks after his initial ischemic stroke, which left him with “locked-in” syndrome (he is fully conscious but has no voluntary muscle movement other than the very limited ability to move his eyes and his head).
The federal judge held that the plaintiff’s doctors at the VA Medical Center had committed medical malpractice and that they were legally responsible for failing to prevent the plaintiff’s second stroke from happening.
The entire 123-page Memorandum and Order can by read by clicking here. Farley v. United States of America, Civil No. 13-cv-261-LM, Opinion No. 2015 DNH 064.
If you or a loved one suffered injury (or worse) as a result of medical malpractice at a VA medical facility, you should promptly consult with a local medical malpractice lawyer in your U.S. state who handles VA malpractice claims, who may investigate your VA medical malpractice claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a federal tort claim action involving the VA, if appropriate.
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