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What Professional Standards Apply to Physicians in Malpractice Cases?

The plaintiff brought her husband to the hospital for shortness of breath. Upon examination by a physician, the husband was not admitted — he was sent home with instructions to see a pulmonary specialist. He died two days later while in the ambulance on his way back to the hospital from respiratory failure related to blood clots in his lungs.

The plaintiff did not ask for specific monetary damages, rather she wanted the jurors to set a precedent and send a message to the hospital and its staff. In order to have found the defendants liable, the jury had to determine that the physician's treatment of her husband was below the professional standard of care for emergency room physicians.

The doctor had ordered lab tests, an EKG, chest X-rays, a stress echo test, reviewed a CT angiogram administered to the husband two weeks prior and then consulted with a pulmonary specialist before he sent the husband home. The wife claimed that a second CT angiogram should have been done to check for blood clots. The defendant presented expert testimony that a second CT scan within such a short time period contains health risks to the patient that were not considered appropriate. The defendant alleged that when the husband was released, there were no indications he was gravely ill and his vital signs were normal.

This was a very difficult case to decide. The jury in a 7-1 verdict ruled that the hospital and physician had acted properly in their treatment of the husband and found no negligence in his treatment.

If you know of someone who has been in a situation where there may have been medical malpractice, you need to see a professional in medical malpractice to determine the facts and issues of your case.