In terms of medical care, negligence refers a situation or circumstance in which a medical profession performs their job in a fashion that deviates from the accepted standard of care. As stated by Montana State law, doctors and medical professionals are held accountable to provide a level of treatment that another competent and capable health care professional would under the same circumstances and within the same medical community. Thus, establishing negligence is evaluated by the standard of care within the medical community a patient received treatment.
It is important to note that medical negligence does not always result in a form of injury to the patient. A doctor or other medical professional may have deviated from the appropriate medical standard of care while treating a patient, but if the patient is unharmed and their health is not impacted, that type of negligence won’t lead to a medical malpractice case.
Medical negligence becomes medical malpractice when a doctor’s negligent treatment causes undue injury to a patient. Types of injuries that would be considered in a medical malpractice case include causing a patient’s condition to worsen, failing to diagnose an illness or run adequate tests given certain patient history, causing unreasonable and unexpected complications, creating the need for additional medical surgeries and/or treatment, and more. It is important to mention that a patient’s condition worsening under a doctor’s care is not sufficient evidence that would lead to a medical malpractice case. The type of negligence thats rises to the level of medical malpractice must show that the doctor’s error falls below the applicable standard of care. If a medical professional actively seeks all possible avenues for adequate treatment and their patient’s condition inevitably worsens, a negligence and medical malpractice claim would fall short.
In terms of legal validation, there are two additional elements needed for a case to constitute a viable negligence and medical malpractice lawsuit – legal causation and damages. To establish legal causation, a medical malpractice lawyer must prove that the doctor’s medical negligence was a foreseeable result of the patient’s harm. Damages are established by demonstrating that the doctor’s neglect had detrimental effects on the patient’s condition and well-being.
A stroke is caused by a blocked blood vessel in the brain or by bleeding in the brain. In either case, it constitutes an emergency that needs immediate medical attention in order to limit the amount of damage there is to the brain, and any disability that is experienced during the stoke’s aftermath. Symptoms of a stroke include severe headache, numbness, weakness, trouble walking, dizziness, vision problems, slurred speech or an inability to talk. Any stroke should be taken seriously, as all are potentially life threatening. Strokes are leading cause of disability, the second leading cause of dementia, and the fourth leading cause of death.
Most stroke survivors have some disability and are more vulnerable to infectious diseases such as pneumonia and often fight with depression. What’s most important with stroke treatment is identifying and treating it early. Any act of stroke negligence or malpractice could cause devastating and life-threatening effects.
Thrombotic strokes are caused by blood clots in the brain. These represent 3/4 of all strokes. The clots interrupt the flow of oxygen to the brain causing symptoms and damage. Some of these stokes are pre-empted by a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA). TIAs normally pass in about 15 minutes or less, but symptoms are similar to that of a stroke, and are often felt on one side of the body. After the episode, circulation and oxygen is restored, and there is no lasting damage to the brain. Although they aren’t an immediate danger, these too should be reported, because they often indicate that there is a high risk of a stroke occurring in the near future.
A cerebral hemorrhage is bleeding in the brain, caused by brain aneurysms that rupture in the brain. Aneurysms form when blood vessels are weakened by inflammation and leak. A pouch forms on the weakened spot and balloons in the weakened spot of the artery wall, producing a terrible headache. In 40% of the cases, this type of stroke will lead to death within a month, while Thrombotic strokes are largely survivable, even though they can be detrimental to a person’s quality of life.
Two of the heftiest payouts from malpractice suits ever centered around stroke victims. The first is a Pennsylvania case that resulted in a $217 million payout. A 44 year old patient with hypertension, diabetes, elevated cholesterol, and family history of stroke went into a hospital Emergency Department with a headache, nausea, dizziness, confusion and double vision. He was tended to by a mid-level provider who ordered blood tests at two CT scans a few hours apart and read both as being negative for stroke. The patient was sent home with a diagnosis of sinusitis and headache, which was approved by the Emergency Department physician. The physician did not stop to consider the patient’s medical and family history, or conduct a neurological assessment, or examine the patient personally. He just went along with the mid-level diagnosis.
The next morning the man returned to the Emergency Department as his symptoms had gotten worse. This time, the stroke was confirmed, but treatment fell short. The man spent three months in a coma, and needed to stay in care facilities for another six months. In the end, he sustained mental disabilities as well paralysis that constituted a a permanent paraplegic state. A lawsuit quickly followed, asserting that the original Emergency Department physician should have detected and treated the patient for his stroke symptoms when he first came in. Through the first 16 months of legal action the mid-level provider’s name was not revealed. Once his identity was discovered, the patient’s attorney discovered that he was an unlicensed PA, who had failed the licensing PA test four times.
Another case of stroke related malpractice was reported by the Washington Post, and involved a $21.5 million dollar payout charged against a Veteran’s hospital in New Hampshire. It was the highest payout for a personal injury case involving just one person in the state’s history. The 60 year old Navy Vet went to the VA with symptoms of partial blindness and headaches and did not receive a diagnosis, testing, medication, or follow up care. Six weeks later, a massive stroke left him with “locked-in syndrome.” He was fully conscious, and able to feel pain, but kept a extremely limited movement ability of his eyes and head. The judge empathized, and assumed that he had suffered psychological trauma as well as he was. “trapped and unable to communicate.” Although the situation warranted consultations with a neurologist and cardiologist, neither happened. An expert witness in the case state that the VA had “medically abandoned” the patient. He received $13.4 million to cover current and future medical care, and $8.2 million for pain and suffering.
Emergency rooms are fast paced by nature, and taking short cuts such as not analyzing patient records and medical histories, missing the signs of strokes or heart attacks, and general organ failure are things that happen too frequently. If you’ve suffered stroke symptoms, only to have your symptoms disregarded by professionals, you didn’t get the care you deserved. In medicine, ignored problems can quickly become magnified. Everyone deserves to get quality care the first time. To learn how we can help, contact Meinhart, Smith, & Manning, PLLC for a free consultation.