If a doctor's negligence causes the patient to suffer an increased risk of harm, that is a compensable element of damages in a medical negligence case in Pennsylvania and other states. In a recent finding of medical malpractice by a federal District Court Judge, the court ordered the defendant doctor to pay his former patient the sum of $672,681.67. The patient was 24 years old in 2013 when the doctor negligently treated her for post-partum bleeding just seven days after her child's birth.
The negligence significantly increased the risk of requiring a hysterectomy, which resulted in the patient's infertility. Specifically, the court held that the doctor failed to provide the applicable standard of care by making only a “haphazard” attempt to save her uterus. The court observed that the doctor hastily used a method likely to be unsuccessful and then rushed right to the hysterectomy.
If the doctor had been vigilant, he would have tried alternative treatments, according to the federal judge who presided over a two-day bench trial without a jury. The award represented the maximum amount allowable for non-economic damages under West Virginia law, plus a small amount for economic losses. The judge held that the defendant fell “egregiously below” the standard of care by not giving the patient a fair chance to keep her fertility.
The court found that the patient would have had a “significantly greater” than 25 percent chance of retaining her uterus if the doctor had not been negligent. Thus, the holding was that the doctor increased the risk of harm to the patient by failing to perform the recognized procedures. The defendant was responsible for paying a host of emotional damages to the plaintiff.
By agreement of the parties, the court was the sole fact finder in this medical malpractice case. The issue of negligence was very fact specific, and the court looked at the various treatment options that should have been attempted. In Pennsylvania and other states, the determination of whether there were recognized courses of treatment that the defendant failed to implement is provided by expert medical testimony.