Most medical professionals work their hardest to provide patients with the best care possible. There are times however when medical care can be harmful to patients. When death or injury results from medical treatment the patient or his or her family can file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the physician who treated the victim.
Under Georgia law there are specific requirements pertaining to what the victim of medical malpractice must prove to successfully sue their doctor for their negligence. The Supreme Court of Georgia has recently heard the arguments in a case that concerns the construction of the applicable statute in medical malpractice cases against physicians that provide emergency medical are. At issue in this specific case is a teen’s death.
The mother of the teenager brought her son to the emergency room of their local hospital because the teen was complaining of chest pain that became worse when he was breathing deeply. The teen had recently undergone knee surgery. After the chest x-ray and EKG of the patient were reviewed, the doctor in the E.R. diagnosed the teen with pleurisy which is an inflammation of the lining of the lungs and was prescribed pain medication. While the medication helped with the pain for a while, about two weeks later the boy returned to the E.R. again with chest pains and difficulty breathing. He died soon after. The cause of death was found to be bilateral pulmonary embolism (blood clots in both of his lungs).
The boy’s parents sued the doctor who first treated him after his arrival at the E.R. It was argued by the parents’ that the doctor’s treatment of their son did not meet the standard of care that is required of emergency medical care providers. The testimony of two experts in emergency medicine was presented by the parents. Both stated that the defendant physician had not recognized the classic symptoms of a pulmonary embolism. As a result the doctor did not order either a chest CT scan or an ultrasound of his recently treated leg. These tests are used to diagnose blood clots.
The lower court had granted the doctor summary judgment in the case. The ruling was appealed by the parents who argued that the lower court had misapplied the statute that governs the standard of care in emergency medical malpractice suits. Under this statute it is provided that emergency room physicians may not be held liable unless the patient has presented clear and convincing evidence that the physician’s actions were grossly negligent. The Supreme Court had ruled in previous cases that gross negligence was the “failure to exercise even a slight degree of care.”
It has been argued by the attorneys for the doctors that the patient’s parents have not met this burden given the evidence showing that the E.R. doctor had ordered diagnostic tests and prescribed medication that appeared to be treating the patient’s symptoms. However, the parents’ attorneys argued that the statute was misinterpreted by the lower court because courts have found in other cases that one can exercise some degree of care while still be grossly negligent.
A decision has yet to be issued in this case.
Given the complexity of medical malpractice cases, if you have been injured due to negligent medical treatment, contact an attorney to determine what your options are.
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