August 22, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/
-- The medical profession is comprised mostly of hard-working health-care professionals who strive to provide their patients with the best care they can. However, there are times when this care turns out to be harmful to the patient. When a patient is injured or dies as a result of medical treatment, the patient or his or her family can bring a medical malpractice suit against the treating physician.
There are laws in Georgia that contain specific requirements about what an injured patient must prove to successfully sue a doctor for malpractice
. The Supreme Court of Georgia recently heard arguments in a case concerning the construction of the statute applicable to malpractice cases against physicians providing emergency medical care.
Teen's death at issue
As reported on WALB.com, the events leading up to the case began when the mother of a teenager who had recently undergone arthroscopic knee surgery brought her son to the emergency department of the local hospital. The teen complained of chest pain which worsened when he breathed deeply.
After reviewing the results of the patient's chest x-ray and EKG, the E.R. doctor diagnosed the 15-year-old boy as having pleurisy, an inflammation of the lining of the lungs, and prescribed pain medication. The medication helped with the pain for some time. However, approximately two weeks later, the boy was back in the E.R. with similar chest pains and difficulty breathing. He died shortly thereafter; his cause of death was bilateral pulmonary embolism, or blood clots in both of his lungs.
The teen's parents sued the doctor who treated him when he arrived at the E.R. with chest pain the first time following his knee surgery. According to the parents' complaint, the doctor's treatment of their son deviated from the standard of care required of emergency medical care providers. The parents presented testimony from two experts in emergency medicine, both of whom stated that the defendant physician had not recognized the classic presentation of a pulmonary embolism, and thus did not order either a chest CT scan or an ultrasound of the recently treated leg, tests which are used to diagnose blood clots.
The legal question before the court
The case was before the Supreme Court because the lower court had granted summary judgment to the doctor. A court grants summary judgment when it decides that the facts of the case are undisputed and application of the law to the facts entitles one of the parties to judgment. The parents appealed this ruling, arguing that the lower court misapplied the statute governing the standard of care in emergency medical malpractice suits.
The statute provides that an emergency room physician may not be held liable unless the patient presents clear and convincing evidence that the physician's actions showed gross negligence. In previous cases, the Supreme Court has defined gross negligence as the failure to exercise even a slight degree of care.
The doctor's attorneys argued that the patient's parents had not met this burden as the evidence showed that the E.R. doctor ordered diagnostic tests and prescribed medication which seemed to be treating the patient's symptoms. The parents' lawyers argued that the lower court misinterpreted the statute because, in other cases, courts have found that one can exercise some degree of care and still be grossly negligent. The court has not yet issued a decision in this case.
Medical malpractice cases are complex. If you have been injured as a result of medical treatment, contact an attorney to discuss your options.
Article provided by William Tinkler, Jr. Attorney at Law, P.C.
Visit us at www.tinklerlawfirm.com