Jason Walters, a thirty-six year old man who became paralyzed from the chest down after leaving a Colorado hospital, received a $15 million verdict in a medical malpractice lawsuit filed against the hospital and a local doctor.
Walters went to the emergency room after experiencing severe neck pain and numbness in his arms and legs. Normally, when one presents with numbness that is a sign of something more serious that would warrant neurologic testing. However, the doctor who treated Walters diagnosed him with “neck strain” and discharged Walters from the hospital. This suggests that the doctor did not do a neurological check-up and simply performed a physical exam.
Walters went home that night and within a few hours was completely paralyzed. He will never walk again.
It turns out Walters was actually suffering from a herniated disc that was compressing his spinal cord and causing progressive neurologic injury.
After a three-week trial the jury returned a verdict in Walters favor, however under Colorado’s medical malpractice cap, Walters will only receive $300,000 of the $10 million he was awarded for pain and suffering. The jury found that both the hospital and emergency room doctor shared fault in the case, however the hospital settled prior to trial.
It appears that the emergency room doctor did not run a full check-up on Walters when he presented with such startling symptoms. However, many would argue that he did not practice “defensive medicine” either by running unnecessary tests. Where should the line be drawn between protecting oneself from medical malpractice lawsuits, protecting patients, and cutting costs?
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