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Case example: Failure to Keep a Patient for Observation

Posted on November 5, 2013

In a 2007 case, a 55-year old insulin-dependent diabetic was brought by ambulance to the emergency room at a Philadelphia hospital after his family found him unresponsive. His blood sugar had dropped and he was having a seizure when he arrived in the ER. He had suffered a severe episode of hypoglycemia. He was given crackers, his blood sugar returned to normal, and he was discharged by the hospital without further diagnostic testing.

Two days later, with no change in his diet or insulin dosage, he had another episode, and was again given crackers. After his blood sugar returned to normal, he was discharged in the middle of the night. The second discharge occurred at 1:00a.m., after which he returned home. He was found unconscious the next morning by his family, having suffered permanent brain damage as a result of a prolonged episode of hypoglycemia. Duffy + Partners agreed to investigate the case.

We retained certified experts in emergency medicine, endocrinology, and neurology, who reviewed the medical records and determined that given the patient’s symptoms of two severe episodes of hypoglycemia in less than 48 hours, following the second episode he should have been kept at the hospital for observation prior to discharge. As a result of the failure of the ER staff to correctly diagnose the cause of the repeat episodes and appreciate his increased susceptibility to another episode, he suffered permanent and irreversible brain damage, and is mentally incapacitated and unable to care for himself.

The case went to trial and Duffy + Partners won a $21,400,000 million verdict on behalf of the man.

Is there a situation where you believe permanent damage would have been prevented with better medical care? Contact us today.