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When a patient dies as a result of medical malpractice, the family of the patient can file a lawsuit against anyone they believe is responsible for the negligent actions that led to the death. If the plaintiffs prove their case, the damages are often based on the potential earning power of the victim. Courts examine how long the victim might have lived if not for the medical malpractice, and they look at how much that victim might have expected to earn in those remaining years.
There are other types of damages that can be sought, such as damages for pain and suffering, that are not connected to the patient’s earning power. Nonetheless, it is a fact of life in any type of wrongful death lawsuit that a court is going to try to put a monetary value on a person’s life.
The negative side of this calculation is the minimizing of a person’s “value” if they did not earn a large amount of money. The other side of the coin, though, is exemplified by a recent lawsuit filed by the family of a neurosurgeon who died while being treated at an emergency room last year.
The neurosurgeon was only 35 years old, and was earning around two million dollars a year. Had he lived and worked to the age of 65, he could have expected to earn sixty million dollars, just at his last earning level.
The plaintiffs, the neurosurgeon’s wife and three children, could have one of the largest claims for economic loss in the history of the state where the lawsuit has been filed.
The fact that a neurosurgeon died from alleged medical malpractice is also surprising in and of itself. Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorneys are aware of the general assumption that a physician would expect to receive extraordinary care at any medical facility, but that assumption is not necessarily correct.
The neurosurgeon went to the emergency room in April of 2010 complaining of vomiting and diarrhea that had lasted three days. An inability to urinate finally drove the doctor to seek medical attention.
The plaintiffs’ medical experts say that he received treatment that was below the appropriate standard of care.
The neurosurgeon patient was ordered to intensive care at 11 am, but was not transferred there until 2:30 pm. He was not seen by a doctor between 1:10 pm and 6:30 pm, which the experts say is also below the standard of care.
By 11:00 pm, the neurosurgeon was dead, allegedly from sepsis, an infection that can cause septic shock and death.
The case is likely to receive a lot of attention, not simply because of the actions preceding the neurosurgeon’s death, but, fairly or unfairly, because of the damages at stake in his family’s lawsuit.
Source: NV State News “Lawsuit over doctor’s death could add up to millions” 5/2/2011