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Many people who suffer from migraines say the headaches are among the most severe pain they’ve ever endured. For some people in Pittsburgh, taking over-the-counter medication and resting makes the migraines manageable. For other people, the pain is so severe they are forced to visit a doctor to find relief.
Doctors can prescribe stronger pain medications to help with the headaches. But what if the doctor wants to pursue more aggressive options? That is what happened when Robyn visited her doctor complaining of migraines.
The doctor ordered an angiogram to investigate an abnormal vein in her brain, which was later determined to be unrelated to the migraines. However, when the dye for the angiogram entered her brain, she suffered a stroke, fell into a coma, and when she woke up two weeks later, she was a quadriplegic. A jury ultimately decided that the hospital’s negligence was the leading factor in harming Robyn.
Robyn contacted an attorney and filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital. The trial started more than a month ago, and 15 experts testified on Robyn’s behalf. After hearing arguments from Robyn’s attorney and experts’ testimony, the jury awarded Robyn $22 million.
To most people, $22 million seems like an astronomical figure. For a woman who now requires around-the-clock care, the money will be put toward the huge expense of constant medical attention and long-term rehabilitation. Moreover, the actual award that Robyn will receive is far less than $22 million. About $16 million is for past and future economic losses. The other $6 million is for human suffering, which will be reduced to $250,000. According to Robyn’s attorney, the award “will provide her with just enough money to take care of her for the rest of her life.”
In some situations, ordering unnecessary tests enables doctors to find aggressive solutions that may have otherwise remained untapped. But what happens when doctors are wrong about the relevance of unnecessary tests — especially when those tests put patients’ lives at risk? Doctors are responsible for helping vulnerable patients find relief, and when their efforts result in serious, life-altering medical complications, something has clearly gone awry.
Source: Mercury News, “Menlo Park woman receives $22 million medical malpractice verdict,” Jason Green, March 21, 2012