After a two-week trial during July, 2012, a Montana medical malpractice jury found that a local Butte, Montana hospital failed to timely diagnose the rare medical condition of a 36-year-old patient in 2006 that contributed to her death. The woman was suffering from TTP (thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura) that was allegedly not diagnosed in time by the hospital, which led to the woman’s death in July, 2006.
What Is Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura?
Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP) is a rare blood disorder in which blood clots form in small blood vessels throughout the body that can limit or block the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the organs, including the brain, kidneys, and heart, that can cause serious health problems or death.
TTP may cause bleeding inside the body, underneath the skin, or from the surface of the skin leading to purple bruises or petechiae (pinpoint-sized dots on the skin).
Because the increased clotting that occurs in TTP uses up blood platelets that help form blood clots that seal small cuts and breaks on blood vessel walls that stops bleeding, the fewer platelets in the blood can lead to bleeding problems.
TTP usually occurs suddenly and lasts for days or weeks, but it can continue for months. Relapses can occur in up to 60% of people who have the acquired type of TTP. Many people who have inherited TTP have frequent flareups that need to be treated.
Treatments for TTP include infusions of fresh frozen plasma and plasma exchange, called plasmapheresis, which have greatly improved the outlook of the disorder.
The Montana medical malpractice jury originally awarded $1.8 million – $1 million for economic damages and $880,000 for noneconomic losses. The jury’s verdict was reduced to $187,500 because of Montana’s cap on noneconomic damages in the amount of $250,000, which reduced the award to $1.25 million, which was then further reduced by 85% because the woman’s chance of survival was determined to be only 15%.
The hospital will be responsible for the verdict — a physician and a medical clinic that also treated the woman were not found to have been negligent in their medical treatment of the woman.
Even though TTP is a rare medical condition that affects very few people, medical providers such as hospitals may be held liable if they fail to consider the diagnosis of TTP under the proper circumstances and/or fail to timely and appropriately treat the condition when diagnosed. Failure to diagnose TTP in a timely fashion can cause a stroke, brain damage, or death.
Hospitals and other medical providers are not held responsible for the injuries and losses suffered by patients so long as they meet the established standard of care in their treatment of their patients. It is only when hospitals or other medical providers provide substandard care (by definition, negligent medical care) that they are held responsible for their patients’ avoidable injuries and losses.
Nonetheless, many states in the U.S. have enacted laws that limit the amount that the innocent victims of medical malpractice can recover (usually the limit, known as a “cap,” applies to noneconomic damages — pain, suffering, mental anguish, disfigurement, etc.), thereby eliminating the amount of a medical malpractice jury’s verdict to the extent that it exceeds the cap, which many people consider to be unjust and unfair (some would even say, un-American).
If you may be the victim of medical malpractice in Montana or in another state in the United States, you should promptly arrange to consult with a local medical malpractice attorney to discuss your possible medical malpractice claim.
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