In its unreported decision filed on December 3, 2015, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland (“Appeals Court”), Maryland’s intermediate appellate court, upheld the trial court granting summary judgment to the defendant anesthesiologist in a Maryland medical malpractice and wrongful death case, holding that there was no evidence connecting the defendant anesthesiologist with the heparin administered to the plaintiff’s decedent on the day in question.
The Underlying Facts
The decedent was a patient in the SICU of a Baltimore hospital, from March 4, 2008 until her death on December 23, 2008. The defendant anesthesiologist was a staff physician in the SICU, one of many physicians who cared for the decedent in the SICU during the months before her death.
On December 22, 2008, the defendant anesthesiologist was on duty as the attending physician in the SICU. On that day, the decedent was provided two doses of heparin, despite her platelet level being at 1. As a result of receiving heparin on December 22, 2008, the decedent bled out and died on December 23, 2008.
Heparin is an anticoagulant used to prevent blood clotting during dialysis, but since heparin lowers blood platelet levels, it is normally not administered when the patient’s platelet level falls below 50 (50,000 platelets per microliter of blood).
When heparin is given to a patient whose platelet level is below 50, heparin-induced thrombocytopenia, or “HIT,” can occur, which interferes with the blood’s ability to clot and is a very serious, and sometimes fatal, condition. The protocols for administering heparin require that the patient’s platelet levels be monitored and that heparin be discontinued if the patient’s platelet levels drop below 50.
The plaintiff alleged in her Maryland medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit that was subsequently filed on behalf of the decedent’s estate and her wrongful death beneficiaries that the defendant anesthesiologist either administered the heparin to the decedent or allowed it to be administered to her, which was a breach of the duty of care that he owed to the decedent.
The plaintiff’s medical expert testified during his deposition that the defendant anesthesiologist breached the applicable standard of care if (1) he had administered heparin, or ordered heparin to be administered, to the decedent on December 22nd, or (2) if a resident acting under his supervision had ordered heparin on December 22nd and the order was not corrected by the defendant in his capacity as attending physician.
The Appeals Court affirmed summary judgment granted in favor of the defendant anesthesiologist, holding that there was no evidence connecting the defendant with the heparin administered to the decedent on December 22nd, and there was nothing in the record before the trial court that could give rise to a reasonable inference that a resident working under the defendant’s supervision ordered heparin on that day: to the extent that inferences can be drawn as to who ordered heparin for the decedent at 10,000 units, those inferences point to another physician and not to the defendant (the medical records further support the inference that the other physician discontinued an order for 25,000 units of heparin on December 21st).
The Appeals Court affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendant, stating that nothing in the record connects the two 10,000 unit doses of heparin administered to the decedent on December 22nd to the defendant under either of the theories put forward by the plaintiff’s expert as a basis for concluding that the defendant breached the standard of care.
Source Puppolo v. Sivaraman, No. 2365.
If you or a loved one suffered serious harm that may be due to medical negligence in Maryland or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a Maryland medical malpractice lawyer, or a medical malpractice lawyer in your state, who may investigate your medical negligence claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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