Wrongful death settlement brings $1.25 million

2006 Medical Malpractice Settlement Report

Failure to diagnose aortic aneurysm resulting in death

In the early evening of February 27, 2001, the plaintiff’s decedent arrived at the Lahey Clinic Emergency Department via ambulance with complaints of chest pain, chest tightness, nausea and shortness of breath. An emergency room physician evaluated the plaintiff’s decedent and found that his initial EKG was normal and all lab work was essentially within normal limits, including cardiac enzymes. Throughout the remainder of the night, he complained of severe pain and stated that his chest, back and shoulders were tight. He was medicated with Morphine but pain remained and actually traveled to his mid-sternun and both shoulders. At 7:45 a.m., the defendant physician evaluated the plaintiff’s decedent and determined that he did not suffer a heart attack.

See similar lawsuits related to aortic dissection/aneurism:

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Later that morning, the plaintiff’s decedent again complained of abdominal pain radiating across his abdomen to the lower part of his sternum. His abdomen was slightly distended, with positive bowel sounds. At this time, the defendant requested a general surgery consult. At 12:15 p.m. on February 28, 2001, the plaintiff’s decedent was evaluated by a general surgeon. The surgeon noted that he complained of sharp sternal and epigastric pain and he recommended an abdominal ultrasound to rule out biliary colic, and a GI consult to rule out peptic ulcer disease. The defendant obtained an abdominal ultrasound (which was normal) but he did not request a GI consult.

The following day, March 1, 2001, the defendant evaluated the plaintiff’s decedent and he indicated that he felt the plaintiff’s decedent was suffering from food poisoning. He ordered an abdominal x-ray (KUB) and a right upper quadrant abdominal ultrasound. The KUB revealed no changes from the previous KUB, and the abdominal ultrasound was normal. After these studies, the defendant noted that his impression was that the plaintiff’s decedent had bronchitis and his abdominal discomfort was related to gas. He started him on an antibiotic and planned to discharge him in the morning. Throughout the remainder of the day, the plaintiff’s decedent complained of abdominal pain and was noted to have an elevated blood pressure. The defendant was aware of these facts and did nothing to ascertain the cause.

The plaintiff’s decedent was discharged on the morning of March 2, 2001 with instructions to return to the emergency room for recurrent abdominal pain, chest pain or shortness of breath. On the morning of March 4, 2001 the plaintiff’s decedent was found unresponsive at home. He was transported to the Lahey Clinic but he was pronounced dead on arrival. The autopsy revealed the cause of death as cardiac tamponade from a ruptured dissecting ascending aortic aneurysm.

The plaintiff intended to offer expert medical testimony indicating that the defendant was negligent in discharging the plaintiff’s decedent without determining the cause of his severe abdominal pain and elevated blood pressure. The plaintiff expected to present evidence that the plaintiff’s decedent’s symptoms were consistent with a dissecting aortic aneurysm and that a CT scan of the chest would have diagnosed the problem before he had a rupture of the aneurysm.

It was expected that the defendant would present expert medical testimony indicating that a dissecting aortic aneurysm was a rare condition in a person such as the plaintiff’s decedent. Further, it was anticipated that the defendant would present expert medical testimony that the work-up done by the defendant was appropriate, complete and what was expected of an internist when faced with this complex situation.

After the deposition of the defendant was completed, the case settled for $1,250,000.00.

Lubin & Meyer attorneys represented the plaintiff in this failure to diagnose lawsuit.

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