lawsuit philadelphia jazz singers brain injury from mri errors

A West Philadelphia jazz vocalist who experienced electrical-shock sensations during a November 2008 MRI brain exam at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania has now filed suit against the hospital for negligent medical treatment. According to the complaint, she sustained what appeared to be electrical burn wounds and now suffers from short-term memory deficits commonly associated with an acquired brain injury.

The electric shocks have left the performer with permanent cognitive difficulties, particularly impairments to her short-term memory and ability to acquire new information. She can no longer learn or perform new music, which has seriously impacted her career.

Electrical shocks are not normal during MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) tests but, the lawsuit claims, they are known to occur when MRI technologists improperly prepare and operate the machines.

MRI Error Said to Have Caused Electrical Burns, Permanent Brain Injury

According to the jazz singer’s complaint, she experienced a series of electrical shocks almost immediately upon being placed in the MRI machine. Hospital staff stopped the test when she complained, but not soon enough to prevent her injuries.

“Immediately, or very shortly after having experienced electric shocks from the MRI machine, plaintiff experienced physical changes such as apparent exit wounds, tingling and swelling of her arms and hands with associated pain,” states her legal brief.

She also began experiencing cognitive changes. She could no longer seem to keep information in her short-term memory or learn anything new, which meant she could no longer learn new music. Difficulties with memory and cognition are common symptoms of acquired brain injuries. Her physical injuries have resolved in the two years since the test, but her cognitive issues have not.

“As a professional jazz singer, plaintiff’s success and continued development is dependent, in part, upon her ability to learn and perform new music,” the lawsuit states.

“Plaintiff’s ability to perform new music has been impaired to her professional detriment, embarrassment, and financial loss.”

The machine was evaluated for evidence that it malfunctioned, but no technical issues were found that could have led to electrical shocks. The most likely explanation for her injuries, the lawsuit claims, is staff and hospital negligence in the operation of the machine. She is seeking damages from HUP, the University of Pennsylvania Trustees and Penn Medicine.

When negligence on the part of a hospital, a technologist or any health care professional results in serious injury, there is no way to excuse that neglect. An acquired brain injury can cause profound harm, not only impacting the victim’s ability to function but also her quality of life — including the loss of some of life’s greatest joys, such as the ability to sing a new song.

Source: Courthouse News Service, “Singer Says MRI Short-Circuited Her Career,” Dan McCue, October 25, 2010

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