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Appeal Court Affirms Ruling In Medical Malpractice Case Involving Potential Failure To Manage Medication

Plaintiff Lee Green brought a medical malpractice action against Dr. Elliott Goodman alleging negligence. An appeals court recently affirmed a ruling from a lower court that dismissed the case. After Green underwent gastric bypass surgery, the surgeon was alleged to have failed to properly manage the patient’s medication. The lower court had ruled that the “defendant, as the patient’s surgeon, did not owe the patient a duty to manage his medication.” They stated that the staff in the intensive care unit (ICU) was responsible for this medication, which was not related to the surgery.

Surgery Performed

Justices David Friedman, Judith Gische, Barbara Kapnick, Ellen Gesmer and Cynthia Kern explained that Dr. Goodman was a bariatric surgeon. The allegations were that the patient did not receive his Lexapro medication while in surgical recovery. Lexapro was prescribed to him for treatment of anxiety. The lack of the medication apparently caused Green to fall into a “medically-induced coma” from the symptoms of withdrawal.

Court Ruling

Green was placed in wrist restraints due to the withdrawal symptoms. The court referenced the case of Burtman v. Brown saying the “duty may be limited to those medical functions undertaken by the physician.” The panel determined that Goodman could not be deemed as negligent because a duty to care did not exist as it related to the patient’s anti-anxiety medication. Any management of this medication would be the responsibility of the ICU staff.

Medication Errors

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimated that medication-related errors harm roughly 1.3 million patients annually. They released some of the following data:

  • There are approximately 100,000 complaints received by the FDA each year regarding alleged medication errors
  • Nearly 30% of the mistakes were associated with prescribing
  • Roughly 24% were errors in dispensing
  • About 6% were administrative errors involved with medical records

Gastric Bypass Surgery

Gastric bypass is one type of surgical procedure used for weight loss. It is typically recommended when dietary changes and exercise have been unsuccessful in losing weight. The procedure is classified as bariatric surgery. This process reduces the amount that the patient is capable of eating and reduces the number of nutrients that the body absorbs. Gastric bypass is now largely considered a safe procedure; however, all forms of bariatric surgery have some potential for side effects and/or complications.

This type of surgery is suited for patients that have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more. This level is deemed as being “extreme” obesity. Those with a BMI of 35 to 39 are considered to have a problem with excessive weight. Those in these ranges may exhibit type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and obstructive sleep apnea. 

Escitalopram (Lexapro)

Lexapro is regularly used for the treatment of depression and anxiety by regulating the levels of serotonin within the brain. Many patients find that the medication heightens their energy and reduces nervous feelings. The manufacturer clearly states that a doctor should monitor any discontinuation of taking the medication. Some of the potential withdrawal symptoms include changes in mood, headaches, interruptions of sleep, and others.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 


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