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Doctors Took Seven Years To Tell A Woman They Left A Catheter In Her Heart

When someone makes a mistake, the right thing to do is admit the mistake, and then take steps to correct any problems that may have resulted. However, not everyone is so willing to admit that they did something wrong. In the case of a hospital making a mistake, failing to tell the patient about it can amount to medical malpractice. Waiting seven years to tell the patient sure doesn’t help the hospital’s case.

A woman in Texas is suing the Parkland Memorial Hospital after she found out an 8-inch broken-off piece of a catheter was in her heart. When a doctor asked whether she knew about the piece of catheter, 59-year-old Debra Wilson said a doctor had told her it was a stent to keep the blood flowing through her heart. The doctor informed her that it was not a stent, but a piece of a broken catheter tube that was left in her aorta since 2007.

It was not as if the hospital didn’t have a chance to find the broken catheter. In the seven years since her 2007 treatment, she’d had 22 chest X-rays before a doctor finally told her about the catheter in her heart. By that time, it had calcified, and posed a life-threatening danger to Wilson. She had to be put on blood-thinning medication as a result, and she may have to live the rest of her life with the catheter because it is too dangerous to remove.

Now, Wilson has filed a lawsuit against Parkland Memorial. The hospital has maintained they are not responsible for the mistake. However, the hospital’s own policy requires notifying a patient or their family “as soon as possible or within 24 hours” after discovery of a clinically significant mistake.

While doctors or X-ray technicians may have noticed the broken catheter earlier, the first indication from her medical records comes in September 2012. A doctor’s noted in her records that a “20 cm long fragment of plastic tubing is present in the aorta.” However, the note also states that it moved higher up in her body since the examination of November 2007.

A month later, further notes indicate doctors were discussing what to do about the plastic tubing. They decided to leave the tube, in part over concerns that removing it may be too dangerous, or could result in infections. However, despite the discussion between doctors over what to do about the catheter, the patient and her family were never notified of the problem.

As is the case with many medical mistakes, Wilson wanted someone to talk to her about what happened. However, she says the doctors and nurses blew her off, so she filed a complaint with the hospital’s patient advocate. She received a standard form response, and a promise to reply within 50 days. After getting no response, she followed up, but received a similar reply, with a promise to follow-up, which never occurred.

Eventually, Wilson had to hire a lawyer to get the hospital to respond. That is when they found out that the hospital knew about the catheter long before informing Wilson or her family. Despite the lawsuit, the hospital is still refusing to take responsibility. “Just do the right thing,” said Wilson. “You say the patients have rights, so do what’s right by them. Own up to what you did and fix it.”

If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of a medical mistake, the Gilman & Bedigian team is fully equipped to handle the complex process of filing a malpractice claim. Our staff, including a physician and attorneys with decades of malpractice litigation experience, will focus on getting you compensated, so you can focus on healing and moving forward.

About the Author

Charles GilmanCharles Gilman
Charles Gilman

As managing partner and co-founder of Gilman & Bedigian, it is my mission to help our clients recover and get their lives back on track. I strongly believe that every person who is injured by a wrongful act deserves compensation, and I will do my utmost to bring recompense to those who need and deserve it.


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