When performing certain medical procedures, doctors are often placing a foreign object like a port or a tube into a patient’s body. This object will be used to deliver medications and nutrients to the patient while they recover, however, it’s vitally important the object be placed in the correct location.
In order to double check their work, doctors often order x-rays, ultrasounds, and CT scans but the results of these tests need to be read accurately. As one family discovered, even if the correct tests are ordered, an incorrect interpretation can cost a patient their life.
Misplaced Feeding Tube Kills Patient
On November 30th, 2008, an 88-year-old man was transferred from his long-term care facility to the hospital for medical treatment. The very next day, while still in the hospital, he suffered a heart attack and thankfully survived. However, his condition had deteriorated enough that doctors felt a feeding tube needed to be placed so that he could get the necessary nutrients while he healed.
The day after his heart attack doctors attempted to place the feeding tube for the first time, but when x-rays were taken to confirm placement, however, x-rays confirmed that the tube had been accidentally placed in the lung instead of the stomach. A second attempt was made and again, an x-ray showed the second tube was in the lungs. A third attempt was made the following morning and this time, the radiologist confirmed that the tube had been correctly placed in the lung.
The only problem was that the radiologist was wrong. The third tube had also been placed in the lung.
A feeding solution was flushed through the tube and entered the lung. Three days later the patient died.
The patient’s wife and daughter filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the radiologist and the hospital, alleging that additional studies should have been taken to confirm correct placement prior to using the feeding tube and the radiologist was negligent for having misread the x-ray.
The case went to trial and a jury awarded the plaintiffs $5.9 million.
Hospital & Doctor Appeal Decision
The defendants appealed the award, arguing that:
- The award was excessive.
- The patient was 88-years-old and only had a one-year life expectancy so overall, his prognosis was “bleak”.
- The patient was sedated while in the hospital so the plaintiffs did not have a valid claim for his physical pain and suffering.
The appeal went before a three-judge panel who reviewed the facts and upheld the original award to the relief of the plaintiffs, stating that the award was fair and reasonable given the evidence.
Does A Patient’s Prognosis Matter In Med Mal Cases?
The only time that a patient’s prognosis may impact a med mal case is when an award is being determined. It should not impact the decision as to whether or not medical malpractice actually occurred. Even if a patient has been given a life-expectancy of a week, medical malpractice can occur and can end their life prematurely.
However, when it comes to an award, life-expectancy may factor in simply because the award is supposed to replace expected losses. For example, if an otherwise healthy individual who is only 35-years-old goes into the hospital for an appendix removal but during surgery a mistake is made and that patient dies, the jury should factor in how many years of work that victim would have had before retiring and what their expected income would have been over that time period. This sum should then be part of the award in addition to any medical expenses, pain and suffering, emotional trauma, and funeral and burial expenses.
Every award is different simply because the losses sustained by each plaintiff are different.
What Are The Steps In A Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
Filing a lawsuit may seem overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be with the right legal team by your side. At Banville Law, we like to break down the legal process for each client so that they know exactly what to expect. During a medical malpractice lawsuit, we will guide you through:
- The pleadings: This is when the initial legal paperwork is filed. The court then sends a summons to the defendant which lets them know they are being sued. The defendant is then expected to provide an “answer”.
- Discovery: During the discovery phase your legal team will review the case, collect evidence, consult with industry experts, and build a solid argument which will be presented to the defendant and in court.
- Pre-trial motions: In some cases, pre-trial motions, like the motion to dismiss, may be filed by either party.
- Settlement: The majority of medical malpractice cases settle outside of court through careful negotiation between the plaintiff and defendant.
- Trial: If a settlement can’t be reached, the case will go to trial.
Our law firm’s goal is to prepare our clients for what is to come and we do this by always being available to answer your questions.