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Family suspects hospital negligence caused a woman's death

New Jersey residents have the right to believe that they, or their loved ones, are receiving the best care while in the hospital. Whether undergoing planned treatment or experiencing a medical emergency, anxiety may already be felt without the added concern over possible errors being made regarding the course of treatment. When a patient is injured or killed as a result of hospital negligence, surviving family members are left to pick up the pieces, with little or no resolution.

When a 62-year-old mother of three was injured after falling from a 6-foot ladder, her loved ones entrusted the hospital with her care. Physicians used a high-tech medical scanner to evaluate possible injuries to her chest and pelvis regions. The results of that scan revealed that the woman had suffered multiple broken ribs, one of which was cracked and positioned with a sharp tip dangerously close to the aorta.

The woman was then transported to another hospital, where she was believed to have access to better medical care. When she arrived at Mass. General Hospital, the doctors decided to monitor the woman's condition overnight, giving her an epidural to help alleviate the pain. The rib continued to press against the artery, being described as a knife pressing up against a balloon. The following morning, the woman went into cardiac arrest after a cough pushed the rib into her aorta, and she died as a result.

After her death, the victim's husband filed a lawsuit against the hospital, claiming that the acting physicians failed to issue precautionary measure that could have prevented the woman's death. A settlement was reached after two weeks of trial, and the doctors agreed to pay the family $4.5 million. Though the settlement does not facilitate negligence on behalf of the doctors or the hospital, the family may be able to find resolution as litigation comes to a close. In New Jersey, when a patient is injured or killed due to hospital negligence, surviving family members may elect to file a medical malpractice claim on behalf of their loved one.

Source: The Boston Globe, "Massachusetts General Hospital doctors agree to pay $4.5 million in malpractice case", Jacqueline Tempera, April 16, 2014

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Alan D. Bell
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