In a previous blog, we discussed the medical malpractice case of Mr. John who had knee surgery and subsequently developed both an infection and a blood clot. Although both conditions were treated, he ended up with a lengthy (and expensive) hospital stay, having to take blood thinner for a year and a stiff knee, when the expectation was that he would regain full function. Mr. John had a life-altering experience!
Who Has the Better Medical Malpractice Case?
Let’s now consider the case of Ms. Wilbur, a 68-year-old woman admitted to the hospital for an infection of her urinary tract. Upon admission to the hospital, she clearly stated to the nursing staff that she was allergic to penicillin. However, a hospital physician ordered a penicillin-containing antibiotic for her condition.
Soon after starting the infusion of the first dose, Ms. Wilbur developed a severe rash and shortness of breath. The hospital physician was called, the infusion was stopped, and Ms. Wilbur was appropriately treated with intravenous steroids. The allergic reaction subsided. Ms. Wilbur and her family lost trust in the hospital physician.
The physician was unapologetic and even blamed the nurse for giving the wrong medication. The physician discharged Ms. Wilbur from the hospital two days later, as planned. The Wilbur’s decided to seek legal counsel regarding suing the physician for medical malpractice because a potentially life-threatening medical mistake was made by the hospital physician and because Ms. Wilbur’s daughter thought the physician’s behavior afterward was unprofessional.
Did the Doctor Violate the Standard of Care?
In a previous blog, we discussed the standard of care. As a reminder, we measure the standard of care by what the average physician would have done under the same circumstances. Violating the standard of care means the physician was medically negligent.
When we discussed Mr. John’s case, we said that determining whether the standard of care was violated was a complex question of whether there was something the surgeon did during surgery that caused the infection or whether there was a delay in recognizing the infection, among other issues. These are difficult questions of medical mistakes that require an expert to review the medical records for evidence of the answers.
But I’m sure you are now thinking about Ms. Wilbur! Wasn’t giving the antibiotic that she was clearly allergic to a violation of the standard of care? Surely the average physician wouldn’t have done that. That’s right! This is an obvious violation of the standard of care!
So, Ms. Wilbur’s case should be open and shut and she wins? Right? Well, that is correct on the issue of whether the hospital physician breached the standard of care if he gave her an antibiotic that she was clearly allergic to. But there are other things to consider.
Did the Medical Negligence Cause Harm?
Part of evaluating the malpractice case is looking at the harm that the patient sustained because of the physician’s negligence.
In the case of Mr. John, we agreed that his life was altered by potential negligence. He has a stiff knee that will affect him for the rest of his life. Maybe Mr. John delivers mail for a living, and his profession involves extensive walking. His future earnings are now affected because he now cannot do his job. Maybe he was a golfer, and he will lose the enjoyment of his favorite sport. So, despite the fact that proving negligence in Mr. John’s case may be complex, it may worth pursuing because he has a severe permanent injury.
On the other hand, Ms. Wilbur does not have a severe permanent injury. Yes, she developed a potentially life-threatening issue because of the physician’s error but it was not significant permanent harm. It will not affect either her projected future medical costs or her future earnings. The physician’s mistake caused her injury, but there was no permanent injury.
You could say that she suffered psychological harm and you might be right. Ms. Wilbur and her family might have suffered psychological trauma because of what happened, but it is unlikely that this would rise to the level of warranting a malpractice case.
As an aside, the physician’s lack of apology and his attempt to push the blame onto the nurse may make you mad at the physician and want to sue him, but it really isn’t a factor in whether you have a malpractice case against him or not.
It’s important to hire a law firm that will shepherd you through your medical malpractice case. When you are harmed by a medical professional in any way, we understand that it is an emotional time. That is especially true if there is significant injury or loss of a loved one.
We are confident that the approach that we employ at Osterbind Law PLLC will help you understand the intricacies of your malpractice claim. We use relentless effort in moving your case forward and we do it with infinite compassion toward you as a person.