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Doctor’s failure to diagnose results in mega award

In what is believed to be a record verdict in a wrongful death suit in Volusia County, Fla., a jury awarded $6.46 million to the family of a woman who died from an undiagnosed heart infection after being transferred from a local hospital, according to a report in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, among other news outlets.

In March 2016, Laura Staib went to what was then Florida Hospital DeLand — now AdventHealth DeLand — complaining of a variety of symptoms. There, she was examined by a doctor who was a member of a nearby cardiology group. His diagnosis: congestive heart failure, pneumonia, and sepsis. Transferred to a long-term care facility, Ms. Staib died 4 days later.

In their complaint against the cardiologist and his cardiology group, family members alleged that the doctor failed to identify Ms. Staib’s main problem: viral myocarditis.

“This was primarily a heart failure problem and a heart infection that was probably causing some problems in the lungs,” said the attorney representing the family. “A virus was attacking her heart, and they missed it,” he said. Claims against the hospital and other doctors were eventually resolved and dismissed.

The jury’s verdict will be appealed, said the attorney representing the cardiologist.

He argues that his client “did not cause that woman’s death. She died of an overwhelming lung infection...acute respiratory distress syndrome, caused by an overwhelming pneumonia that got worse after she was transferred to a facility where [my client] doesn’t practice.”

The bulk of the award will be in compensation for family members’ future pain and suffering and for other noneconomic damages.

Botched outpatient procedure leaves woman disfigured

In early September, a patient was allegedly administered the wrong drug during an outpatient procedure on her hand. She sued the Austin, Tex., hospital and surgical center where that procedure was performed, according to a story in Law/Street.

On January 9, 2020, Jessica Arguello went to HCA Healthcare’s South Austin Surgery Center to undergo a right-hand first metacarpophalangeal arthrodesis (fusion) and neuroma excision. In her suit against the hospital, Ms. Arguello claims that while her surgeon was preparing to close the incision after having irrigated the site, he called for a syringe containing an anesthetic. He was instead handed a syringe that contained formalin, the chemical used to preserve specimens for later review.

The mistake, Ms. Arguello claims, caused her to suffer massive chemical burns and necrosis of her flesh, which required four additional surgeries. In the end, she says, her right hand is disfigured and has limited mobility.

She adds that her injuries were preventable. Standard surgical procedure typically forbids chemicals such as formalin to be included among items on the prep tray. In addition to other compensation, she seeks damages for past and future medical expenses and past and future pain and suffering.

At press time, the defendants had not responded to Ms. Arguello’s complaint.

A version of this article first appeared on Medscape.com.

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