Surgeon Postpones Urgently Needed Surgery; Jury Awards $7.5M to Deceased Patient's Estate

July 6, 2022 | Strategic Insights for Health System


The jury awarded $7.5 million to the surviving spouse and estate of a deceased patient who died after a cardiovascular surgeon postponed urgently needed surgery for more than two weeks due to his schedule and upcoming vacation, according to the April 2022 issue of Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts.

A patient was diagnosed with severe atherosclerotic disease by his primary care physician and went to see a cardiovascular surgeon the following day. The surgeon diagnosed the patient with critical bilateral carotid stenosis. Although surgery was urgently needed, the surgery was scheduled for more than two weeks later due to the surgeon's schedule and upcoming vacation. The surgeon did not refer the patient to another surgeon who could operate sooner. One week before the scheduled surgery, the patient woke up feeling slightly disoriented and unsteady, so the patient's spouse took him to the emergency room, where he was diagnosed with a transient ischemic attack and bradycardia. Shortly thereafter, the patient became confused and unresponsive. The patient was transferred to a telemetry unit, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) studies were ordered but never completed. By the next day, the patient's condition had worsened. Despite this, the surgeon did not return a call to the telemetry nurse, nor did he come and examine the patient, but instead had his nurse practitioner call. Further, the telemetry nurse did not institute a "chain of command" procedure despite the patient's worsening condition, the failure to complete the ordered diagnostic studies, and the failure of any physician to examine the patient. Thirty hours after admission to the emergency room, both MRI and MRA were completed, and the surgeon's nurse practitioner scheduled surgery for the following morning. However, due to the surgeon's negligence in failing to contact the patient's primary care provider, the failure to promptly contact the cardiovascular surgeon on call, the failure to treat the patient for signs of a stroke in a timely manner, and the failure to recognize the significance of the patient's symptoms, the patient continued to worsen through the night. He was transferred to an intensive care unit, where...

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