Hospital emergency physicians at George Washington Hospital are facing allegations of failing to diagnose and treat a patient who has been left disabled. The medical malpractice lawsuit filed in the D.C. Superior Court alleges that 43-year-old Kareen Jenkins sought care at the hospital. Jenkins claims that doctors failed to detect and treat an abscess that ultimately pressed against his spinal cord and caused paralysis. The claim includes allegations of negligence and of a failure to acquire informed consent. Informed consent requires physicians to explain all treatment options to their patients.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
The defendants in the case are Robert Shesser, who manages emergency services, and Joshua Oppenheimer, a medical resident. The claim asserts that the defendants should have recognized the abscess through properly conducted diagnostic testing. Jenkins entered the emergency room complaining of stiffness and pain in the neck area. The doctors noted that Jenkins had high blood pressure and a rapid heart rate.
Return to Hospital
The patient was discharged from the hospital with three types of medication, but without full diagnostic testing. The claim states that it was “safe for him to go home.” Several days later, Jenkins fell and was unable to stand. He used a voice-activated device to reach a family member that notified emergency responders. Jenkins soon arrived back at George Washington Hospital where the abscess was detected.
Jenkins underwent a surgical procedure and spent 10 days in intensive care. He remains unable to control his “legs, bowels, or bladder” and is said to be permanently disabled. He requires third-party assistance for day-to-day functioning. The counsel for the plaintiff explains that the failure to properly diagnose and treat the condition was a clear example of negligent care.
Informed Consent: Washington, D.C.
A medical provider is required to explain the potential options available for treatment to all patients. The key details are as follows according to § 7–1305.06a:
- The patient should be provided with information sufficient for making medical decisions
- The patient should comprehend the options and their potential benefits, outcomes, and risks must be disclosed
- Medical providers who determine that a patient is incapacitated are to obtain substitutional consent from their attorney
- If no attorney or responsible party is available, the District may appoint a guardian
- Providers may act without consent in cases of emergency when necessary, such as a mental health crisis, to prevent severe injury to the patient and others
In this case, the plaintiff developed severe skin abscess. These are masses that are able to be felt that tend to have a pink or red color. They are often the result of an infection and contain bacteria and pus. They may develop anywhere on the body and tend to be painful when touched. Often they develop in the armpit region, anus, vagina, or base of the spine. When an abscess develops next to a hair follicle it is referred to as a boil. To improve the condition of an abscess it is generally necessary to make an incision and drain the fluids.