When a loved one is rushed to the emergency room, time seems to stop moving at the normal rate of speed. Some events rush by in a blur and cannot easily be recalled; other details are absorbed at a pace that barely moves. In the most stressful of circumstances, Tennessee residents place their trust, and very often their lives, in the hands of emergency medical personnel. One recent medical malpractice suit suggests that such a trust is not always advisable.
The case centers on a woman who decided to seek emergency medical care after suffering from fever, rapid heartbeat and severe pain within her abdomen. After spending around nine hours in the hospital, the woman was released and told to follow up the next day with her gynecologist. However, she collapsed in her home just hours later and was rushed back to the hospital.
At that point, it became clear that she was is septic shock. The infection was stopped with medication, but her vascular system was severely damaged. As a result, it was necessary to amputate all four of her limbs.
Within their medical malpractice suit, the woman and her husband claimed that they were never told that a bacterial infection might have been the cause of her symptoms. Had they known that such an infection was possible, they might have chosen to pursue other treatment options. Such care may have saved her life without the need for such drastic amputation measures.
A court recently awarded the family $25.3 million in damages. Among the claims made within the lawsuit were pain and suffering and loss of companionship on the part of the husband. Many in the legal field believe that the case will go through appeals, as the law in the family’s state of residence places a limit of $750,000 on non-economic damages. For Tennessee residents, this story may serve as a cautionary tale of the risk of improper diagnosis.
Source: Journal Sentinel, “Jury awards Milwaukee woman $25.3 million in medical malpractice case“, Cary Spivak, July 7, 2014