After an auto accident, Florida residents expect that doctors will take good care of them and do whatever they can to stabilize their condition. However, one doctor – an orthopedic surgeon – ordered a CAT scan for one patient after he suffered serious injuries in a car accident. The 30-minute delay caused the man’s vital signs to dip dangerously low, causing paralysis. The South Carolina man and his wife were awarded $2.85 million after suing the doctor for medical malpractice.
The car accident happened in April 2004. The man suffered injuries to the arteries in his forearm, among other places. He was taken to Grand Strand Regional Medical Center in Myrtle Beach in order to stop the bleeding. While he was being prepped for surgery, the surgeon ordered a CAT scan of the man’s injured knee. There was a 30-minute delay and during that time, the man’s blood pressure dropped to 72/56 – a dangerously low number.
Due to the delay, the man went into respiratory and cardiac arrest. He had to be resuscitated by an anesthesiologist and an emergency room doctor. The incident caused a portion of the man’s spinal cord to die. He now suffers from permanent paralysis below the waist.
Doctors who testified at the trial agreed that delaying treatment was negligent on behalf of the surgeon. It is believed that the man’s body was without blood flow for up to 27 minutes. The man received $2.3 million and his wife, his sole caregiver, received $550,000. The judgment is one of the largest in the state so far this year.
When determining an appropriate course of treatment, doctors need to look at the patient’s overall condition, including vital signs. When blood pressure drops, time is of the essence. Waiting for a CAT scan – a non-essential test – was not a smart medical decision.
Source: Myrtle Beach Online, “Jury awards $2.85 million in Myrtle Beach area medical malpractice lawsuit” David Wren, Sep. 17, 2013