There are a large number of medical malpractice lawsuits that stem from delayed diagnosis or the misdiagnosis of a medical condition. This type of error can lead to incorrect, delayed, or a lack of treatment. If this occurs a patient’s condition could worsen or the patient may even die.
A Waterville woman was recently awarded $1.25 million in damages in a medical malpractice suit for delayed diagnosis. These damages were for the failure of St. Elizabeth Medical Center to immediately diagnose that she was having a rare stroke. At the time she was 16 years old.
The patient, Abigail Smith, suffered an ischemic stroke and collapsed while at Waterville High School in 2007. The staff at St. Elizabeth did not consult a neurologist until seven hours later. By this time it was too late for Smith to benefit from tPA, a clot-busting drug. This drug should have been administered within a three hour timeframe in order to have any effect. Smith was then transported to a Syracuse hospital for emergency surgery.
Smith continues to suffer the effects of the stroke despite here the excellent medical care she has received and her dedication to rehab. She has a significant speech problem as well as physical deficits and other problems. She would not suffer from these problems had she received the timely medical care she needed after arriving at St. Elizabeth.
The Supreme Court trial lasted for nine days. St. Elizabeth’s attorneys disputed that the staff should have been able diagnose the stroke. They also disputed that what would have been an off the label use of tPA would have been appropriate for a 16 year old girl because the drug is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for adults. However, the attorney for Smith showed that St. Elizabeth’s policy with regards to neurological exams was not followed and that since Smith was physiologically an adult, tPA should have been offered.
The jury deliberated for about four hours where they found that Dr. Timothy Page and St. Elizabeth staff were negligent when they failed to promptly diagnose and provide Smith with proper treatment. The damages awarded included money for past medical expenses and pain and suffering, past and future.
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