Man Dies after Doctor Fails to Diagnose Pulmonary Embolism
In a wrongful death lawsuit, the estate of a 35 year old man claiming that defendants did not recognize and treat symptoms demonstrating pulmonary embolism. The case of Kilburn v Aliquippa Hospital, et al. detailed the plaintiff’s story of undergoing knee surgery and the complications that followed.
The plaintiff in the case made the claim that the hospital failed to diagnose the man in a timely way and then treat the embolism that lead to the man’s death. The case was brought against Aliquippa Community Hospital, the emergency room doctor who treated the plaintiff, and the man’s primary care physician who also treated him after he saw doctors in the ER.
The plaintiff’s claim was that the care that the man received did not meet care standards and as a result the man died. The defendants, on the other hand, argued that the diagnosis and care provided were reasonable under the circumstances, and that administering a blood thinner, which the plaintiffs claimed could have saved the man’s life, probably would not have saved the his life.
According to the plaintiff, there were multiple signs that the man suffered from a pulmonary embolism when he came to the emergency room. He had shortness of breath, a quickened pulse, increased respirations, and shortness of breath. Instead of diagnosing pulmonary embolism, however, the man was diagnosed and treated as if he was just having an anxiety attack. After the defending ER doctor treated him, he was sent home. But then two days later the man went to see his primary care doctor, who also failed to correctly diagnose him. The man’s primary care doctor diagnosed him with acute coronary syndrome.
The plaintiff’s contention was that the man recently had knee surgery and was hospitalized during that period, and this made him especially at risk of pulmonary embolism. Experts for the plaintiff were of the opinion that if more tests had been performed, like blood tests, a D-dimer, and a VQ scan, doctors would have seen the pulmonary embolism. This delay caused an acute pulmonary embolism and he died three days after visiting his doctor. The experts said that giving the plaintiff the blood thinner Heparin would have greatly improved his chances of surviving. There is about a 92 percent chance of survival for cases of pulmonary embolism that are quickly diagnosed and treated.
The emergency room doctor claimed that when the man came into the ER, diagnosing him with anxiety was entirely reasonable. Experts testified that this was a reasonable diagnosis. The defendant primary care doctor also contended that his diagnosis was consistent with the symptoms he observed. They both claimed that giving the blood thinner would not have saved the man.
After examining all of the evidence the jury decided that 35% of the blame went to the hospital, and the primary care physician was 65% responsible. The jury believed that the man’s symptoms were worse than when he sought treatment in the emergency room and that his primary care doctor should have recognized them for what they were. They awarded the plaintiff $1,264, 396 in compensatory damages.