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Medical malpractice claim looms after ejected woman died

In a medical negligence case in New York, there must be a finding that the medical provider fell below the recognized minimal standard of care in that field of medicine. It must also be proved that the negligence was a substantial factor in causing the patient's injuries. If there is negligence that did not cause the patient's injury or death, then there is no medical malpractice.

A recent incident at a hospital in another state raises issues about causation and, more importantly, about medical ethics. A 57-year-old woman who went to a hospital for treatment of breathing problems was forcibly removed when doctors decided that she did not need treatment. The woman insisted that she needed help and refused to leave the hospital. The hospital called the police, who removed her in handcuffs and arrested her for disorderly conduct and trespassing.  

However, she collapsed within seconds after being taken outside. She was taken back inside the hospital but died shortly thereafter from a blood clot in the lungs, according to an autopsy report. Police state that the woman was alive when returned to the care of the hospital.

Hospital officials later announced that a pulmonary embolism is difficult to diagnose and "impossible" to treat. The medical examiner stated that the blood clot was due to being excessively overweight. The hospital CEO had no explanation for the actions of the medical staff.

One issue is the arrogance of doctors who seemingly made a rash, ill-advised decision to disbelieve or minimize a patient's complaints of severe breathing difficulties. It appears that they did not look for the cause of the discomfort but instead took aggressive action against her. The hospital argues lack of causation by saying that a clot in the lungs is "impossible" to treat, thus indicating that the hospital's negligence did not cause the woman's death. In New York and other jurisdictions, however, if the plaintiff presents expert evidence that the patient could have been saved with appropriate, timely care under those facts, then the case will be sufficient for a jury to decide that there was medical malpractice. 

Source: columbiatribune.com, "Family claims death caused by negligence", Dec. 24, 2015

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