Fatal Heart Attack Due to Misread EKG: $2.5 Million Settlement
Lawsuit claimed resident failed to recognize EKG findings requiring urgent referral to cardiology for placement of pacemaker
2023 Medical Malpractice Settlement Report
By William J. Thompson, Attorney
Worcester Superior Court, Worcester, Massachusetts
On 2/5/20, the plaintiff’s decedent presented to a clinic for increasing fatigue, weakness and shortness of breath. He was seen by a resident under the supervision of an attending physician.
The resident obtained an EKG which was abnormal when compared with a prior EKG. The report stated there was marked sinus bradycardia with A-V dissociation and idioventricular rhythm, left axis deviation, right bundle branch block, minimal voltage criteria for LVH, inferior infarct, and idioventricular rhythm had replaced sinus rhythm. A cardiologist did not sign off on the report. The resident indicated that the EKG showed “sinus bradycardia with aggressive prolongation of PR interval, concerning for Mobitz type I AV block.”
The resident generated an order for a cardiology referral for evaluation of the sinus bradycardia and abnormal EKG. The order was entered as a “routine” referral. The resident discussed the plan with the attending physician who noted agreement with the plan, but did not see or evaluate the patient. A stress test was scheduled for the patient in March, 2020, but then cancelled due to Covid-19.
On 6/6/20, the patient was found down at home. EMS was called and attempted resuscitation. He was pronounced dead at the scene. His cause of death was suspected cardiac arrest. No autopsy was performed.
The plaintiff’s expert opined the resident failed to recognize and appreciate the EKG findings were consistent with third-degree heart block which required urgent referral to cardiology for placement of a pacemaker. The defense contended the resident and attending both met the standard of care and were not negligent. The defense also raised c. 258 immunity for the resident, and statutory immunity for both doctors due to Covid.
The case settled shortly after filing suit for $2,500,000.
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