Medical malpractice case focused on diagnosis

When a Pennsylvania resident seeks medical care, he or she places a great deal of trust in the medical professionals who will provide that care. While the vast majority of medical procedures will go smoothly, there are a number of cases each and every year in which problems will occur. Among those, some medical complications are unavoidable, but some are the result of medical malpractice.

An example is found in the case of a 36-year-old woman who wanted to increase her chances of becoming pregnant. She sought medical care and underwent a surgical procedure that was intended to help her achieve a successful pregnancy. During that laparoscopic procedure, her small bowel was perforated.

The perforation was not the result of negligence or any form of medical error; perforations are considered to be a common risk of that type of surgery. However, the physician who performed the procedure did not know that the perforation took place. When the woman went to the emergency room the day after the surgery with a fever, pain in her lower abdomen and an irregular heartbeat, the condition was not properly diagnosed.

Over the next few days, the woman experienced an elevated white cell count, as well as an extended abdomen and vomiting. Even so, the physician who performed the surgery did not take the step of ordering a CT scan until days after these symptoms presented. Because of that delay, the woman had to undergo two additional surgical procedures to correct the problem.

It was the failure to properly diagnose the bowel perforation that formed the base of the family's medical malpractice lawsuit. The matter went to court, and a jury recently ruled in the family's favor. They were awarded over $1.57 million in damages, as well as pain and suffering. The case serves as an example of the risk that all surgical patients face, in Pennsylvania and across the nation.

Source: chronicle.augusta.com, "Richmond County jury awards woman $1.57 million for diagnosis error in medical malpractice case", Sandy Hodson, June 11, 2015

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