Jury finds for Suffolk County family in medical malpractice case

A doctor’s failure to diagnose a condition can lead to grave consequences for a patient who has a serious condition. Delays in identifying what symptoms may mean are only one thing that can go wrong. Failing to order a test may lead to a misdiagnosis.

When we are suffering from symptoms, as a general rule, we may seek treatment. But, when a doctor provides a diagnosis, many people may not immediately dispute the doctor’s analysis. He or she went to medical school, and we all want to trust the medical opinion.

In 2006, a Suffolk County man was experiencing chest pain, coughing spells, and running a fever. Concerned about the symptoms, the man went to the emergency room. He saw a doctor in the ER who spent five minutes with the patient before determining that the man had bronchitis, according to a recently decided medical malpractice lawsuit.

The man was sent home with some medications to treat the lung condition—he was told to get some rest. The difficulty is-- the man may not have had bronchitis at all. He died sometime during the night. An autopsy revealed that the man had been suffering from a virus that affects the heart. The condition could have been detected through an electrocardiogram—a test not ordered in the ER, despite the man’s complaints of chest pain hours before his death, according to the lawsuit.

A jury found that the doctor was negligent in his care of the patient after hearing evidence in a five-day trial. The doctor is no longer practicing medicine in Massachusetts, according to the Boston Globe. The newspaper says that the doctor works on the West Coast. The Massachusetts hospital was sold to a new owner since the incident occurred.

Medical negligence issues may be complex. The relevant standard of care is an important aspect of a medical malpractice claim. The jury determined that negligence was involved, and that negligence was sufficiently linked to the man’s death. These issues and the details involved in a medical malpractice claim can be complex. Victims, or the families of victims, of a medical error should consider speaking with legal counsel to understand what options may be available.

Source: The Boston Globe, "Jury awards $4.8m to family in death of patient," Jacqueline Tempera, Mar. 10, 2014