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Husband claims wife’s injuries caused by hospital’s choice

Patients are entitled to the best medical care available when illness strikes. New Yorkers realize that doctors and hospitals generally live up to that tenet. Unfortunately, substandard hospital care does surface at times. When it does, those affected may seek compensation from those responsible. Accountability can be the catalyst of improvement.

A woman in another state is severely brain damaged as a result of a choice to transfer her from one medical facility to another, according to her husband's lawsuit. The previously healthy 55-year-old suffered pneumonia in 2013. Initially, an office visit didn't help, so the doctor advised a trip to the emergency room for treatment.

The complaint claims the defendant medical facilities were negligent in their decision to transfer the ill woman by ambulance from one hospital to another. Plaintiff contends it was a decision based on a financially favorable arrangement between the emergency room facility and another hospital 50 miles away.

The woman's injuries allegedly occurred when the emergency room staff treated her shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting with the drug Dilaudid. According to the lawsuit, this drug suppresses respirations. The transfer ambulance had little respiratory support, and the trip was 50 miles. Further claimed is insufficient explanation of risk or benefit. Sporadic visual monitoring of the unresponsive patient resulted in her arrival in respiratory and cardiac arrest. Resuscitative efforts were successful, but severe brain trauma ensued.

Plaintiff filed the lawsuit for himself and as guardian of his incapacitated wife. Negligence and lack of informed consent are claimed against the emergency room facility and the ambulance company; damages for loss of consortium encompass the remaining medical group defendants. The husband can't work as his wife requires constant care.

Families should be able to trust the medical care they require. Judgment errors leading to tragic results must be evaluated carefully. When it is appropriate to hold physicians and hospitals accountable for actions or inaction, seeking compensation in court can be a sound option. Families need to recover as best they can, and lessons can be learned by the medical community.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Kaiser Transfer Blamed for Brain Damage" Barbara Wallace, Feb. 20, 2014

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