A New Hampshire medical malpractice jury awarded just under $4.7 million to a 67-year-old woman who suffered blindness as a result of alleged negligent medical treatment of her age-related wet form of macular degeneration by the defendant ophthalmologist. The jury also awarded $350,000 to her husband for his loss of consortium claim. The 12-person New Hampshire medical malpractice jury reached its verdict on December 9, 2016, after a six-day trial and two-and-a-half days of deliberations.
What Is Macular Degeneration?
Macular degeneration is a deterioration or breakdown of the macula, which is the small area of the retina that is responsible for central vision that allows people to clearly see fine details. Symptoms of age-related macular degeneration include vision blurriness, distortion or dark areas in central vision, and sometimes permanent loss of central vision, although it does not usually affect peripheral vision. When macular degeneration leads to loss of vision, it usually begins in just one eye but may later affect the other eye.
Only about 10% of people with macular degeneration have the wet form of the disease. The wet form occurs when abnormal blood vessels begin to grow under the retina, and may cause more damage to central or detail vision than the dry form. The abnormal blood vessels may leak blood or fluid, causing blurring or distorting central vision. Loss of vision due to the wet form of macular degeneration may be more noticeable and faster than the dry form of macular degeneration. There is also a risk that the non-affected eye may develop abnormal blood vessel growth as well.
The New Hampshire woman was treated by the defendant ophthalmologist for eight years. After the plaintiff loss much of her sight in left eye due to macular degeneration, her right eye developed the disease. The ophthalmologist injected the plaintiff’s right eye with a steroid that she claimed was too aggressive and rapidly led to her developing glaucoma, pain in the eye, and resulted in blindness and the need to remove her right eye.
The New Hampshire medical malpractice lawsuit alleged that the defendant ophthalmologist breached the standard of care in using the steroid injection as the first-line treatment for early wet form of age-related macular degeneration in light of the plaintiff’s history of glaucoma. The plaintiff suffered excruciating pain after the steroid injection into her right eye, and instead of referring the plaintiff to a specialist, the defendant ophthalmologist performed three additional procedures that led to a detached retina. The damage to her right eye was so severe that the eye had to be removed and replaced with a glass eye.
The New Hampshire medical malpractice jury determined that the defendant ophthalmologist had breached the standard of care with regard to his treatment of both of the plaintiff’s eyes but its verdict was for her right eye only. The defense argued that the defendant ophthalmologist was not negligent in his care of the plaintiff’s eyes, and that the plaintiff was negligent and contributed to her own injuries.
If you or a family member suffered serious injury or other harm that may be due to ophthalmology malpractice in the United States, you should promptly find a medical malpractice attorney in your state who may investigate your ophthalmology medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in an ophthalmology medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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