GWC’s Jason M. Kroot and Geoffrey E. Jacobs have obtained a $1.3 million settlement for the family of an infant who died as a result of a bowel obstruction. The firm’s medical malpractice lawsuit alleged the child’s doctors and hospital deviated from the “standard of care.”
Bowel Obstruction Not Identified
In 2011, a mother took her four-month-old son to the emergency room early in the morning. The child had been vomiting, was lethargic, and had not been taking his bottle. Hospital workers determined that two of the child’s vital signs were abnormal – his respiration and heart rate were both elevated. Although the most common abdominal emergency for infants is a bowel obstruction, the treating doctor did not order any tests to rule it out, in part because the child did not seem to have abdominal pain. The baby was discharged an hour later after receiving anti-nausea medication and drinking Pedialyte.
Later that evening, the child’s parents took him back to the emergency room because he was still vomiting. His respiration and heart rate were even more elevated than before. Once again, the doctor discharged the child home without ordering any testing to rule out a bowel obstruction.
Only the next morning, when the child’s parents brought him to the emergency room for a third time, did the doctor order imaging of the boy’s abdomen. When the x-rays came back positive for a probable bowel instruction, the doctor had the child transferred to a pediatric hospital, where bowel obstruction was confirmed.
The pediatric hospital ordered emergency surgery. During the operation, the surgeon found extensive necrosis (dead tissue) of the bowel as a result of the obstruction. The surgeon then needed to remove a portion of the child’s bowel during the operation, which appeared to be successful. But only days later, the child began suffering complications when a surgical staple came loose, causing the bowel to leak. His condition was further worsened when he developed a Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococcus (VRE) infection, which resists antibiotic treatment. Soon after, the boy passed away. His death certificate listed the cause of death as complications related to bowel obstruction, including infection.
Deviation from the Standard of Care
GWC filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital where the boy’s family sought emergency room treatment and the two doctors who saw him there.
“In building our case,” said Mr. Kroot, “we argued the defendants deviated from the standard of care by failing to perform the basic steps of a differential diagnosis.”
The standard of care is the type and level of care that a reasonably competent and skilled medical professional, with a similar background and in the same medical community, would have provided under the circumstances. To establish liability for a valid medical malpractice lawsuit in Illinois, the injured party has to prove the medical provider acted differently from other competent professionals working in the same field and under the same conditions.
To demonstrate deviation from the standard of care, Mr. Kroot and Mr. Jacobs argued that the two treating emergency room doctors failed to evaluate the child for a potentially life-threatening condition like a bowel obstruction. Careful evaluation would have involved performing a differential diagnosis, such as obtaining an x-ray of the boy’s abdomen, referring him to a specialist, and/or arranging to have him transferred to a pediatric hospital for further examination – none of which happened in a timely fashion.
Child Likely Would Have Survived
GWC argued that if the doctors had intervened earlier, the child would have been diagnosed and treated sooner and likely would have survived.
“The overwhelming majority of bowel obstructions are successfully treated without surgery, usually with an enema,” explained Mr. Kroot. “Even when surgery is necessary, most of the patients survive it as well without any lasting complications.”
The child’s pediatric surgeon and an outside pediatric surgery expert both agreed with the opinion that the child would have survived and likely not have needed surgery if he had been diagnosed at the first or second emergency room visit. But by the time the boy was diagnosed, his bowel obstruction was much worse, which led to extensive necrosis.
“Combined with the child’s highly weakened state and dehydration,” Mr. Kroot said, “this necrosis left him too weak to fight off the infection that ultimately caused or contributed to his death.”
In light of GWC’s arguments, the defense agreed to settle this medical malpractice lawsuit for $1,300,000.00, after jury selection and just before opening statements.
Illinois Medical Malpractice Lawyers
Illinois law allows a patient to recover financial compensation in cases of medical malpractice. If you or a loved one has suffered severe bodily injury because of medical malpractice, please contact GWC Law to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our Illinois medical malpractice lawyers.
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