Smiley & Smiley, LLP

Failure to diagnose heart attack can be medical malpractice

The failure to conduct appropriate diagnostic tests, which leads to the failure to diagnose the patient's true condition, accounts for a substantial percentage of medical negligence claims, both in New York and nationally. When the patient presents to an emergency room with certain clearly observable symptoms that indicate the possibility of a heart attack, the failure to conduct cardiac tests under the circumstances is often found to be medical malpractice. This is particularly true when the patient dies of a heart attack shortly after being released by the physicians.

In another state, a jury recently awarded $950,000 to a widow and four children of a 73-year-old man who died after doctors failed to give him the appropriate diagnostic tests. He had complained of cardiac problems for days while in the hospital and under the doctors' care. The key determinant in favor of the deceased patient is that the symptoms he displayed, and the chest pains he complained of, would dictate a minimum response of at least requiring tests for ischemia, atherosclerosis and hardening of the arteries.

A doctor's task when the patient complains of a certain kind of chest pain is to go forward and aggressively administer the tests necessary to rule out heart attack. Despite having the patient in the hospital for some three days, the doctors did not order the indicated tests. That may be why the plaintiff's attorney described the case as being one that consisted of strong liability.

It appears that the patient was having a myocardial infarction, i.e., a heart attack, while still in the care of the doctors, even before he was released, according to the allegations in the case. The failure to diagnose and treat it under those facts does indeed make this a case of relatively strong liability in favor of the plaintiff. Therefore, under New York law regarding medical malpractice, it appears that the jury finding of liability in this case would occur here as well.

Source: cookcountyrecord.com, "Jury awards Ford County record $950K to family of victim of alleged medical malpractice", Annie Hunt, Jan. 7, 2016

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