A Massachusetts jury awarded a family $250,000 in December after finding a hospital was substantially negligent in failing to provide timely care for a 78-year-old patient whose death was hastened because of the delay in treatment.
The medical malpractice case dates back to Easter Sunday 2008, when the man went to the emergency room at UMass Memorial Medical Center - Memorial Campus with shortness of breath and an unexplained weight gain. He was admitted to the hospital for treatment of congestive heart failure and atrial flutter, an abnormality in the beating of the heart, also called an arrhythmia.
The man's condition worsened overnight and the next morning he was supposed to be moved to the hospital's critical care unit for additional treatment. Instead, the man was left to languish for 11 additional hours until he became unresponsive. Then staff finally rushed him to the critical care unit, but it was too late. He had to be intubated. Intubation is the process of inserting a tube through the mouth and into the airway so the patient can be placed on a ventilator to assist with breathing. The tube is then connected to a ventilator, which pushes air into the lungs to deliver a breath to the patient. The man never regained consciousness and was removed from life support 11 days later.
The jury in the malpractice case heard two weeks of testimony and deliberated for three days before rendering a verdict. They found the hospital was negligent because nurses did not move the patient to the critical care unit as had been directed and that failure to take action constituted negligence. The jury determined the lack of timely care substantially contributed to the man's death.
A 2013 study in the Journal of Patient Safety showed that between 210,000 and 440,000 hospital patients each year suffer some type of preventable harm that contributes to their death. That study suggested medical errors were the third-leading cause of death in the United States, behind heart disease and cancer.
A new study released earlier this year by Johns Hopkins Medicine backs up the earlier study. It purports 10 percent of all deaths -- or more than 250,000 annually -- in the U.S. are due to medical error, making it the third leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer, further validating the earlier study.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still lists respiratory disease as the third leading cause of death in the country. The discrepancy between the CDC death rankings and those of the researchers is due to the way the CDC compiles its national health statistics, according to the Johns Hopkins researchers. Medical errors are not classified separately on death certificates, so it is up to a doctor to self-report if the cause of death was due to human error.
If you have been harmed or a loved killed as a result of medical negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. Call the offices of trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian at 800-529-6162 or contact them online. The firm handles cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.