Heart Attack Death: $3.5 Million Settlement
2020 Medical Malpractice Settlement
By Attorney William J. Thompson
Essex Superior Court
Lawsuit claims physician assistant and supervising physician failed to recognize patient’s risk of sudden cardiac arrest, and to immediately refer patient to cardiologist or ER.
The plaintiff’s decedent died on 7/7/15, at age 56, from a myocardial infarction. He was married with two adult daughters, and worked as a security guard. His medical history included hypertension, dyslipidemia, situational anxiety, and seasonal allergies.
Progression of medical care
On 6/11/15, the patient telephoned his PCP to request an appointment due to shortness of breath.
On 6/15/15, he was seen by the defendant physician assistant (P.A.). He described a three month history of shortness of breath, and dyspnea on exertion, with jaw pain and epigastric pain. He described these symptoms as intermittent, but felt GERD or “pressure” during light exercise. He tried to perform heavy exercise (e.g., running), but was unable to increase his endurance without symptoms.
The P.A. noted that the patient was 5’6” and 189 lbs., with a BMI of 28.84. His blood pressure was 150/88 and 138/90 (sitting), with an oxygen saturation of 96%. The P.A. noted a normal exam and normal heart with a regular rate and rhythm, with normal S1, S2 without murmurs, rubs, gallops, or clicks. An EKG was performed in the office and showed a normal sinus rhythm.
Given the new onset of dyspnea on exertion, associated with jaw and epigastric discomfort, the P.A.’s concern was a cardiac etiology. The plan was to order a stress echocardiography and have the patient follow up in 2-4 weeks. This note was electronically signed by the defendant P.A. and by the defendant supervising physician.
The stress test was scheduled to be performed on 7/8/15, and an appointment for follow up with the P.A. was set for 7/13/15. On 7/7/15, the patient suffered a cardiac arrest at his home and died.
Lawsuit claims standard of care not met
The plaintiff claimed the accepted standard of care required the PA and the supervising physician to recognize and appreciate the patient’s risk of having a sudden cardiac arrest, to recognize that a single electrocardiogram is not reassuring for the lack of significant cardiac disease and risk of heart attack, and to immediately refer him to a cardiologist and/or to the emergency department for further monitoring, evaluation, and treatment, including stress echocardiography, serial cardiac enzymes and serial EKGs.
The medical malpractice case settled prior to trial for $3,500,000.
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