The Hampton Veterans Affairs Medical Center has recently settled a medical malpractice suit in which the mental health department failed to correcly diagnose a patient’s physical ailments. The $210,000 settlement resulted when a died of a drug overdose, resulting from an attempt to self-medicate the pain from what was later discovered to be a fractured vertebra. As part of the settlement, the hospital acknowledged that it was responsible for the patient’s death.
This settlement is not the first incident in which the Hampton VA has been cited for failing to treat its mental health patients for physical ailments. Another mental health patient died earlier this year due to a pulmonary embolism which was misdiagnosed as an anxiety attack. Even after frequent complaints of shortness of breath, the hospital breached its standard of care by failing to take regular vital signs and by failing to measure the oxygen levels in the patient’s blood until shortly before his death. Furthermore, the VA continued to prescribe anti-anxiety medications, even though the patient continued to complain of shortness of breath. Had the Hampton VA taken earlier blood oxygen level measurements, the fatal blood clot in the patient’s lung could have been avoided. An autopsy revealed that the patient also had several areas of dead tissue in his lungs, indicating that he had suffered several smaller blood clots prior to his death.
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