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Boy dies after emergency room errors

An appeals court recently sided with a jury by upholding a decision that awarded $2.38 million and found a hospital emergency room doctor responsible for medical malpractice. The malpractice happened after the doctor reportedly failed to properly diagnose a serious injury, resulting in a 14-year-old boy's death.

The boy had been kicked in the throat, and he was rushed to the emergency room. The triage nurse classified his case as "non-urgent," failing to inform the doctor that the boy had been nauseous and was in severe pain.

Attorneys for the doctor and the hospital argued that the boy suffered an unusual injury that was difficult to diagnose, and that the physician performed adequate and normal treatment for the symptoms he presented. However, as the teen's symptoms progressively worsened, records show that his blood pressure was not properly monitored and blood tests were not immediately ordered.

The teen suffered an internal injury, which caused internal bleeding. The doctor only noted severe swelling of the neck and one slight hemorrhage in the eye. A radiologist on call reviewed a CAT scan from her home and later informed the doctor that the boy might be suffering from an internal hemorrhage in the jugular region.

The teen had lost two pints of blood into his chest cavity when finally doctors decided to transfer him to a trauma center where he could be treated by a thoracic surgeon. However, he died in surgery. The appeals court agreed with expert witnesses who testified the boy could have been saved hours earlier with the proper treatment. Although medical malpractice was not the only cause of the boy's death, the court ruled that the doctor's negligence was a substantial factor in his death.

Source: Cliffview Pilot, "Court upholds $2.4 million malpractice award in death of Bergen boy kicked by mom," Jerry Demarco, Nov. 17, 2011

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