On January 31, 2019, a Georgia medical malpractice jury returned a $4.7 million verdict in favor of a woman whose lower right leg was permanently damaged when medication was administered in the ICU through a central line that was misplaced in the emergency room. The emergency room doctor who placed the central line had difficulty in placing the central line in the woman’s groin because her low blood pressure made it difficult to identify the usual landmarks and to differentiate between an artery and vein. Nonetheless, he relied on his belief that the placement of the central line would be verified in the ICU before medication was administered through the central line.
The 50-year-old woman arrived in the emergency room after she took two handfuls of blood pressure medication in an apparent attempt to commit suicide. The woman had recently suffered great losses in her life: her son died following a seizure and her husband died from a heart attack. The woman’s primary care physician placed her on an antidepressant medication that was associated with an increase risk of suicide in younger patients. When she advised her primary care physician’s physician’s assistant that the medication was not helping, the physician’s assistant doubled the dose. Two days later, she attempted suicide. Fortunately, the woman’s daughter noticed her mother’s increasing symptoms of depression and contacted the mother’s psychiatrist. The psychiatrist, in turn, contacted the woman, who admitted to him that she had taken the pills. The psychiatrist called 911 and the woman was transported to the emergency room.
After the woman was transferred from the emergency room to ICU, she suffered a cardiac arrest. A Code Blue was called and the woman was resuscitated. An ICU physician reportedly instructed an ICU nurse to check the central line placement but the nurse failed to do so. The same nurse reportedly observed the woman’s leg turn blue and found it without a pulse, which she reported to the ICU physician, who did not check the condition of the woman’s leg himself.
It was only after a shift change that a nurse determined that the central line had been misplaced and advised the ICU physician, who ordered that the medication being administered into an artery instead of a vein be immediately stopped. By then, the woman’s lower right leg had sustained a permanent injury. One week later, her right leg was amputated below the knee.
At the close of trial and before the Georgia medical malpractice jury got the case to decide, the trial judge granted a directed verdict in favor of the defendant emergency room physician, finding that the plaintiff’s emergency medicine expert, who was a critical care specialist, was not qualified to render opinions regarding the emergency room care.
After almost eight hours of deliberations following the two-and-a-half-week trial, the Georgia medical malpractice jury returned its $4.7 million verdict in favor of the woman, finding that she was 3% at fault but the hospital was 60% at fault, the primary care physician’s practice was 10% at fault, and the ICU physician who treated the woman in the ICU was 27% at fault.
Source Lockhart v. Bloom, No. 16EV003451.
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