Esmeralda Tripp arrived in the emergency department at the University of Arizona Health Network Hospital, (which is now Banner-University Medical Center), in Tucson, AZ suffering from seizures. She had been to this emergency department in the past for similar issues. Tripp was said to have been treated by a provider who was approximately eight weeks out of medical school. Plaintiff attorneys contended that the standards of care were not adhered to when Tripp was administered the drug Profilnine, which was believed to have caused her blood clots and brain damage. She has since remained in a “vegetative” state. In what was one of the largest awards in Pima County recently, she will receive $12 million in compensation.
In prior emergency visits, Tripp had received Vitamin K and/or fresh frozen plasma which had been effective. The doctors used a standard known as international normalized ratio (INR) in evaluating the condition of her blood, with optimal levels being between two and three. Prior to her arrival in the emergency room, Tripp’s primary care doctor determined her level to be 13. According to hospital guidelines, Profilnine is appropriate in situations of life-threatening bleeding. Tripp’s attorneys stated that this was an extreme action because her condition was not truly life-threatening.
An initial report suggested she may have appendicitis, which was a reason for the usage of Profilnine, yet it later appeared that she would not need medical treatment specifically for appendicitis. Hospital management explained that Profilnine has increasingly been used in cases of high INR and that doing so was within the appropriate standards of care. Approximately two hours after treatment began, Tripp’s heart rate and blood pressure became very high. In response, she was considered to be in a “code arrest” and an anti-clotting drug known as TPA was administered.
Attorneys for the hospital expressed regret for the outcome, yet believe that the care provided was medically sound. They explained that Tripp provided incorrect information to staff regarding her medical history that day. Her medical records did not reflect such major events or indicate that she had any drug allergies. She reportedly admitted to have taken roughly four times the dosage of blood thinners that she was prescribed. The hospital emphasized that patient input is critical in decision making amid emergency situations.
Since the incident occurred four years ago, Tripp has resided in the family room of her home. She has four children who have been helpful and supportive in caring for her. Her attorney feels the award should be sufficient to afford her the constant medical care that she is likely to need in the future. Her ability to communicate is severely limited. She relies exclusively on communication using hand movements and making facial expressions. Hospital attorneys feel the ruling is likely to be appealed soon. They pointed out that the actual award was originally $15 million, but was reduced by 20% to $12 million to account for Tripp’s contribution of fault, referred to a comparative negligence in Arizona statute.