A medical malpractice case can be based on the failure of the healthcare worker to warn a patient of known risks of a procedure or a course of treatment. The law imposes upon physicians and other healthcare workers a duty to secure informed consent from a patient before going forward with a procedure or course of treatment. An Indiana medical malpractice attorney explains that if after being informed of the risks the patient would not have chosen to have the treatment or procedure, then the doctor would have committed medical malpractice if the patient is injured by the procedure in the manner that the doctor should have warned could happen. However, if the patient consents to the treatment or procedure after being warned of the risks, the doctor still may be liable for medical malpractice should the patient suffer injury during the treatment or procedure. A recent medical malpractice case demonstrates that a doctor cannot hide behind informed consent if he was negligent.
Because most medical procedures and treatments involve some risk a doctor or other healthcare worker has a responsibility to let the patient know about such risk. This allows the patient to make a decision as to whether or not to undergo that procedure or course of treatment. Such consent it typically given by the patient in writing. However, in emergent cases where physicians must act immediately to save the patient’s life, the law allows them to do so without first obtaining informed consent.
The Case of Vickie Tatlock
In 2004 Vickie Tatlock was admitted to Bloomington Hospital with a serious heart condition. Tatlock’s condition required a procedure called an angioplasty. There was no issue concerning informed consent, and Dr. James Faris performed the procedure. A known risk of angioplasty is that a coronary artery may be perforated. That is what happened to Tatlock. A perforation of a coronary artery increases the risk for cardiac tamponade, which is a dangerous condition that develops when too much fluid builds up in the sac in which the heart is enclosed, causing pressure on the heart. Thus, when an artery is perforated, the patient must be watched closely.
Negligence Despite Informed Consent
Dr. Faris failed to watch Tatlock closely and instead tended to another patient. Furthermore, Dr. Faris did not request that another physician check in on Tatlock. Tatlock did suffer a cardiac tamponade, her condition steadily deteriorated, and she eventually died. Tatlock was just 49 years old. Tatlock’s husband and son sued Dr. Faris. The case finally came to verdict in October 2013 with the jury awarding the plaintiffs over $5 million in damages. In this case Tatlock consented to the angioplasty knowing that a perforated artery was a risk. However, when Tatlock did suffer the perforated artery, Dr. Faris and the hospital staff had a duty to follow accepted medical practice to treat the condition. Since Dr. Faris failed to do so he was liable for medical malpractice. The type of malpractice that Faris committed was not that he failed to warn Tatlock, but that in treating Tatlock Faris failed to meet the appropriate standard of care.
While informed consent is indeed necessary to ensure that the patient understands the risks associated with a treatment or procedure and to protect the physician from legal liability, in reality is such consent given freely in cases where the alternative is the worsening of a condition or even death?
Unfortunately nursing home neglect and injuries are more common than we think. Read below for some of the worst stories we have heard.
The first memory I have is of my mother’s mother – my Gigi. I didn’t realize until I was in my 20’s that Gigi was actually “G.G.” for “great-grandmother.” She was just my Gigi. The memory is of sitting on her lap in her living room. It was dark, as always, since she didn’t want to waste electricity by having the room too bright.
I could feel the bones of her legs under mine through my green corduroy pants and her faded wool skirt. She smelled of moth balls and chicken soup. Knowing Gigi, she had probably dabbed a bit of both behind her ears. She was reading a book to me; a book she was holding with her thin, almost translucent hands.
Help is Needed
Those hands were so delicate and yet so strong. With them she had raised 8 kids, battled the Great Depression, grieved with the country with the Kennedy’s were assassinated and listened to Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Those hands, covered with dark spots the size of quarters, whose edges almost overlapped until there was more dark than light in places. Those hands, with rivers of dark blue running in relief, like a 3D map of her life. Those hands that could no longer stay still. Those hands that had soothed and punished her three boys and five girls. Those hands that could no longer take care of her. Gigi started calling me by my mom’s name, by my aunt’s name … sometimes even by her dead sister’s name. Then Gigi couldn’t drive anymore. Then Gigi couldn’t remember where she lived or if she’d taken her medicine or what year it was. Gigi came to live with us for a while, but she left the gas burner on once and started a kitchen fire. Then she went for a walk in the middle of the night and the police from two towns over brought her back.
Shortly after that, Gigi moved into a nursing home. When I was old enough to drive, I would go to see Gigi after school. She was almost always asleep when I arrived, but would perk up as if she had been napping to get extra strength to visit with me. One time, I walked in to find her room smelling of urine. I asked if she was OK and she confessed that she’d had an “accident” and pointed to the panties draped over a lamp. I ignored the accident bit – I’m sure she was embarrassed enough – but just had to tell her that it wasn’t a good idea to hang anything flammable from a heat source.
While I never saw anything as bad as the nursing home horror stories on the news, I know something about nursing home neglect. My poor Gigi, who was such a strong and confident woman, became a shell. The lost nearly 40 pounds that she didn’t have to spare. She always said she wasn’t hungry, but managed to eat if I fed her. I asked the staff several times if they couldn’t please make it a point to have someone help her eat at least once a day. I was always told that they did the best they could and Gigi was eating as she should. I know that wasn’t true. In the end, Gigi had less than 90 pounds on her 5’8” frame. She died of “natural causes” but I knew that wasn’t true. She died for lack of attention, nutrition and entertainment. She died of boredom and starvation. She died of embarrassment because she was too strong to ask for help eating.
Not the Worst Nursing Home Horror Stories … But Not Good Enough
I’m glad that Gigi didn’t die of exposure like the poor man in Oak Lawn, IL. Nor did she ever have sores untended so long that they developed maggots. What she also didn’t have was someone that took care of her on a consistent basis, someone that was held accountable for Gigi’s status. I did the best I could to take care of Gigi while my mom worked 3 jobs to take care of me. I wish I had been able to do more for Gigi. I know that if it ever comes to the point when my mom needs more help than I can give, I’ll hire home health nurses or do whatever I have to do to make sure I don’t lose Mom like I lost Gigi to nursing home neglect.
GranuFlo is an acid concentrate used during hemodialysis treatment to neutralize the buildup of acid in the blood. GranuFlo is known as a dry acid. In March of 2012, the FDA issued a Class 1 recall of this treatment based on reports of serious side effects and death. If you have undergone dialysis treatment in the last few years, request a copy of your medical records to determine if this particular drug was used during your treatment.
It’s amazing how often people need to get implants of some sort to help them heal from an injury or ailment. Now-a-days they make implants for just about every part of the body (so a bionic man might be possible!) and below is a list of the 10 most common implants used today along with some insight on what the implants are and how they’re used to help the patient.
To my surprise I actually can pair up people I know with every, single implant on this list! That must mean they’re very common. How many do you recognize? If you have any experience with one of these medical implants and wish to share your story please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.