Medical malpractice is defined as when a hospital, doctor, or another healthcare professional, through a negligent act or omission, causes an injury to a patient. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins, 400,000 people die each year in the United States due to “preventable medical errors.” Amazingly, only about two percent of the victims file a claim against the doctor or healthcare facility.
Describe a medical malpractice case on which you recently worked.
We had a 60-year-old man who came into the ER with a complaint of new-onset chest pain, and the doctors there did not do the proper work to determine whether or not he was having a heart issue. The physician’s assistant (PA) and the doctor jumped to conclusions and did not rule out the worst possible causes first – a cardinal sin for ER doctors and PAs. The doctor and PA made assumptions because they did not closely listen to the patient and his wife. This is an example of what I call “assembly line medicine.” They didn’t take the time with this patient and did not do the proper testing to rule out the worst first. He was discharged from the ER prematurely, and he died several hours later from a massive heart attack.
What were some of the challenges you faced with that case?
When you get into these cases, a lot of times, the medical care provider wants to try to blame the patient for not providing vital information. In contrast, if you look at all of the medical textbooks, when patients come in with specific symptoms and risk factors, the doctor must ask the crucial questions related to those particular symptoms. It’s also critical that doctors and PAs document in the medical records that the important questions were asked by detailing the patient’s responses. It shows the doctor took the time to think through this patient’s concerns, which were severe enough to cause him or her to seek help. Unfortunately, many healthcare professionals leave the medical record blank and later claim they did not have time to document such information. After their patient dies shortly after discharge, the doctor or PA tries to blame the patient for not providing certain information. This poor excuse for not doing their job, which
does include having a complete and accurate medical record, is just another symptom of “assembly line medicine.”
What was the result?
With that particular family, the case went right up to trial. We got right to the courthouse steps, and that case settled. The man left a widow dependent on him, not only financially but for lots of things. He was the person who kept the house up, he was the only breadwinner, and we were able to recover an amount of money that took care of the widow. We took a huge burden off this woman and did what I think he would’ve wanted, which was to make sure his wife was taken care of.
Why is it essential to have an experienced medical malpractice lawyer in West Virginia?
Medical malpractice can get complicated and can have different pitfalls. It’s crucial to have an experienced lawyer who knows where to look for those pitfalls and knows how to simplify the case. The doctors and insurance companies want to make it complicated and difficult to figure out. Our job is to prove not only what happened but why it happened in a straightforward and understandable way. The reason why malpractice occurs is often because of some system failure on the part of the hospital or another healthcare office. For example, the hospital may understaff its ER or other parts of the hospital. In the case described above, the patient never saw a doctor. He just saw a PA that made herself look like she was a doctor. There are rules for these doctors and hospitals to follow, and when they don’t, that’s when someone gets badly injured or dies. Instead of them being able to blame the patient, we see precisely why it happened by digging into the case to find the system failure.
If you or a loved one have been the victim of medical malpractice, please contact Tiano O’Dell. Your Charleston-based law firm can get you a free consultation to ease your mind.
Call 304-720-6700 today.