Jury Reaches Verdict for Wrongful Death Following Gallbladder Surgery Delay

Medical malpractice refers to all cases where there are claims of professional negligence caused by doctors, nurses, and other care providers. Sometimes these are traditional negligence claims filed by the patient themselves when they are injured as a result of medical errors. At other times, when the patient dies as a result of the mistake, a wrongful death lawsuit is filed. In each case medical malpractice is the heart of the matter, but some of the procedural steps are different depending on who is actually bringing the lawsuit–the patient or a family members following a death.

Wrongful Death Suit after Surgery Delay
AL.com recently reported on a jury verdict in one of those wrongful death cases following medical malpractice. It is an example of the serious consequences of delayed treatment–in this case a failure to order emergency surgery in time. According to the story, the original case was filed by a widow after her 56-year old husband died on Christmas Day in 2008.

During trial the attorney for the widow explained how the man was first admitted to the hospital where the defendant doctor worked in late November of that year. He had severe gallbladder pain upon admission, and he ultimately stayed at the hospital for five days. Yet, he had only been back at home for two days before the pain was again unbearable and he went back into the facility. He stayed for another five days before yet another discharge.

The plaintiff’s attorney explained that “All of the doctors involved in [the man’s] treatment and care determined on the very first day of this admission that [he] gallbladder needed to be removed. However, the surgeon made the decision to wait on removing his gallbladder at that time.”

As before it was only a few days after his second discharge before the pain returned and he was again forced back into the hospital. This time he stayed in the facility for well over two weeks before ultimately dying. An autopsy was performed, and the coroner determined that the death was caused by a “pus filled gallbladder with severe inflammation and infection.”

After the relatively young man’s death, his widow sought the aid of an attorney and filed a wrongful death lawsuit. At trial, the lawyer’s explained how the delay in surgery to remove the gallbladder were unjustified. That delay ultimately led directly to the man’s death. Together this constitutes medical malpractice. The jury agreed with the plaintiff, reaching a verdict of $3 million against the surgeon and surgical center that were named as defendants in the case. It is unclear if those defendant’s plan on appealing the decision, though one lawyer did indicate that they were looking at their post-trial options.

As this sad situation reminds, timing is critical in so many medical situations. Unjustified delay is never appropriate. Also, “yo-yo” treatment with frequent discharges and readmissions should always be avoided, as it may be a sign that care in the original case was not appropriate or sufficient.

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