The $2.3 million settlement of a Chicago medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit was approved by the court on September 17, 2019. The case involved a 49-year-old woman who had routine gallbladder surgery at the defendant hospital, where she worked. The woman died during the surgery and an assistant medical examiner subsequently conducted an autopsy after which he determined that the woman died of natural causes.
The plaintiff’s Illinois medical malpractice lawyer explained after the settlement was approved by the court, “There were two errors that never should have happened. The surgeon should never have inserted the gas inflation needle into the woman’s liver. The assistant medical examiner should never have missed the real cause of this woman’s tragic death. The expert doctors we retained closely examined the operative records and autopsy report. They found that she died from a gas bubble lodged in the heart, a carbon dioxide gas embolism caused by the surgeon. Without these experts’ work, the surgeon’s error would never have been exposed. There would be no accountability. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office blamed this woman’s death on a heart arrythmia, but there was absolutely nothing wrong with her heart. The assistant medical examiner flat out missed the actual cause of death – a gas embolism.”
The pathologist retained by the plaintiff to review the assistant medical examiner’s determination as to cause of death determined that the autopsy slides showed an injury to the woman’s liver as well as evidence of gas bubbles in the woman’s lungs that he determined was the only possible cause of her death. The pathologist reportedly stated that the assistant medical examiner was unaware how a gas embolism can occur in the operating room and failed to read or consider the surgical records before coming to his wrong determination of the cause of death. The pathologist explained: “The autopsy has to answer the following questions. Why did this person die? Why did they die at that particular point in time? And what were the constellation of events which became incompatible with life? The only way you can do that is to take the records of the hospitalization and see what went on that ultimately led to that person’s death. That was not done in this case.”
The plaintiff argued that the surgeon negligently used a blind entry technique with the needle used to inflate her abdomen with carbon dioxide gas despite the woman’s history of prior surgical scarring and an enlarged liver. The plaintiff contended that when the surgeon blindly inserted the needle, the needle struck the woman’s liver and the surgeon injected her liver with high pressure carbon dioxide gas that formed an embolism that traveled to her heart and prevented the flow of blood to her lungs. The woman died on the operating room table despite ninety minutes of resuscitation efforts.
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