When a 67-year-old man who was suffering from multiple sclerosis and was paralyzed from the chest down went to a local West Virginia hospital to be treated for a urinary tract infection, the last thing he or his family would have anticipated would be that the man would never make it home again. Instead, the man died from a misdiagnosed bowel perforation that went untreated until it was too late.
Two weeks ago, a West Virginia medical malpractice jury began to hear the medical malpractice case filed on behalf of the man’s surviving son. At first, the man seemed to be improving in the hospital and his doctor advised his family that he expected the man to be discharged from the hospital the next day. As the day progressed, the family became increasingly concerned about the man’s deteriorating condition, including his increasingly distended abdomen, and was asking for a doctor to examine the man instead of the nurses conferring with a doctor by telephone. The doctor reached by telephone ordered an x-ray based on what the nurses told him. The family alleged that the radiologist who read the x-ray misinterpreted the findings.
The doctor reached by telephone believed that the man was suffering from a less-serious fecal impaction instead of a life-threatening perforated bowel. Finally, at 3:00 a.m., a doctor examined the man and immediately transferred him to the intensive care unit in preparation for emergency surgery. The man died about 5:00 a.m. that same day.
As the trial continued into its second week of testimony last week, the parties settled the medical malpractice case for an undisclosed sum after the trial judge’s ruling made it difficult for the plaintiff to obtain punitive damages. Since the cap (limit) on noneconomic damages that applied to the son’s claim in West Virginia was $500,000.00, the plaintiff’s lawyer said it made sense to settle the case.
There is no excuse for a hospital to not have available on a 24 hours per day, seven days per week basis the proper medical personnel to respond to any foreseeable medical situation or medical emergency that may occur. The necessary medical personnel must be either physically at the hospital or able to respond to the hospital to treat patients in a short period of time. A telephone consultation with a doctor without a hands-on examination by the doctor of an acutely ill patient is gambling with the patient’s health and life that the telephone diagnosis is accurate. If the wagered diagnosis is wrong, it is the patient who loses, sometimes paying with his or her life.
If you have been the victim of a misdiagnosed or undiagnosed medical condition in a hospital or otherwise, you may have the basis for bringing a medical malpractice claim to be compensated for your expenses and losses due to the medical negligence. Medical malpractice attorneys may be able to investigate your possible medical malpractice claim to determine if your claim should be brought.
Visit our website or call us toll free at 800-295-3959 to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your local area who may be willing and able to bring a medical malpractice claim on your behalf, if appropriate.
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