On October 2, 2017, a Georgia medical malpractice jury returned its verdict in favor of the estate of a woman who died in the hospital following a complication from treatment for a bowel obstruction. The five-day Georgia medical malpractice trial ended when the medical malpractice jury took less than three hours before awarding the woman’s estate $500,000 for her medical expenses and her pain and suffering, and an additional $5.5 million for the value of her life.
The 72-year-old woman was taking narcotic pain medication after her knee replacement surgery in January 2014 when she went to the emergency room because she had developed pain and nausea due to severe constipation. The defendant emergency room physician (whom the Georgia medical malpractice jury determined was not negligent and her actions did not contribute to the woman’s death) suspected that the woman had a bowel obstruction and therefore ordered a single x-ray, which showed no sign of a bowel obstruction. The defendant emergency room physician diagnosed the woman s condition to be narcotic pain medication induced constipation. Nonetheless, the woman was admitted to the hospital and came under the care of the other defendant physician (“defendant physician”).
The defendant physician was responsible for the woman’s medical care after her admission to the hospital. The day after the woman went to the emergency room, abnormal results from blood tests and an x-ray were interpreted as indicating that the woman likely had a bowel obstruction that led to the defendant physician ordering oral laxatives and an enema. While in the hospital, and shortly after receiving medication by mouth, the woman vomited and aspirated. The woman then suffered a fatal heart attack as a result of her aspiration, according to the Georgia medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit.
The Georgia medical malpractice plaintiff alleged that the defendants had breached the standard of care by misdiagnosing the woman as suffering from narcotic pain medication-induced constipation based on only one x-ray while the woman was lying on her back that would not necessarily reveal a bowel obstruction, and that the standard of care required a CT scan or multiple x-rays taken while the woman was standing in order to properly diagnose her bowel obstruction.
The plaintiff’s Georgia medical malpractice attorney stated after the verdict was rendered, “If all of the other doctors, other than [the defendant emergency room physician] and her expert, are using multiple x-rays to diagnose partial bowel obstruction, we submit that that is the standard of care.”
The Georgia medical malpractice plaintiff also argued that the defendant physician should have ordered a gastro nasal tube be inserted in order to decompress the woman’s stomach and that it was medical negligence to order an oral laxative for the woman (the defendant physician reportedly admitted during trial that he intended to order that the woman not be given any medication by mouth). The woman reportedly was given 10 ounces of thick medication by mouth and then vomited one hour later, leading to aspiration and her fatal cardiac arrest.
The defense argued that the defendants did not breach the standard of care and that their treatment of the woman was reasonable. The defense argued that the fatal vomiting was a rare complication of the treatment and was typically not part of the treatment considerations under the circumstances.
If your loved one died as a result of medical malpractice in Georgia or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a Georgia wrongful death lawyer, or a wrongful death lawyer in your state, who may investigate your medical malpractice wrongful death claim for you and represent you in a wrongful death medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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