patient wins lawsuit after doctor fails to refer to cardiologist

If your physician diagnosed you with a potentially serious heart condition not just once but twice, wouldn’t you expect that physician to continue monitoring the problem? And if other heart-related symptoms arose, wouldn’t you expect that physician to refer you to a cardiologist?

A jury recently found that a doctor failed in these duties. Though the plaintiff and his wife were awarded $6.4 million, no amount of money can return the injured patient to his previous health. This case was not heard in Pennsylvania, but the type of medical negligence that led to the patient’s suffering happens here and throughout the country.

The pertinent factors in this case date back to 1996, when a man who is now 59 was diagnosed with a mitral valve prolapse. The condition involves the failure of a heart valve to close tightly, and consequently blood is allowed to flow in the wrong direction in the heart.

Five years later, an echocardiogram indicated that the condition was still present, yet no further echocardiograms were ordered by the doctor. The patient’s lawsuit claimed that the doctor’s initial diagnosis seemed to have “disappeared completely” from his concerns. During this time, the doctor never referred the patient to a cardiologist.

In 2007, though, the patient fell very ill. He experienced abdominal pain, loss of appetite and fatigue, and the lawsuit even says that he feared that he might die.

This time, his physician had him tested by other doctors, but the patient was still never referred to a cardiologist. In fact, that same year, when the patient’s condition worsened, the physician told the man’s wife to wait before taking him to a hospital. The doctor first wanted to see a hematologist’s test results.

The following month, a bacterial infection in the patient’s heart valve caused an acute stroke, and he now has difficulty speaking and using the right side of his body. His short-term memory is also damaged. The jury found that the man’s injuries resulted from the doctor’s negligence, and now the patient will likely have to live with these problems for the rest of his life.

When this sort of medical negligence occurs, injured patients should be aware of their recourse to the law. To learn more about these matters, please visit our Pennsylvania medical malpractice site. 

Source: stltoday.com, “Maryland Heights couple win $6.4 million in medical malpractice verdict,” Walker Moskop, July 9, 2013

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