Wrongful death attorneys at Pintas & Mullins report on a lawsuit recently revived against the federal government, after a man died at a federal clinic in Kentucky. He was seeking treatment for persistent pneumonia and passed away from a severe allergic reaction from CT contrast scan dye.
The man was admitted to the federal clinic, Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation in Whitesburg, Kentucky, in January 2009, and died the same day. His medical chart specifically noted his allergy information, flagging a similar reaction to CT scan dye one month earlier. At the time of his death, his attending physician informed his wife that he died of natural causes from aspirating (suctioning out) a blood clot.
When a coroner arrived, however, emergency personnel told a completely different story, and an autopsy was ordered. The autopsy revealed the true cause of her husband’s death: severe allergic reaction. She presented her claim to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (as the medical clinic is federal agency) in 2011, however, the HHS denied her claim because it arrived four days too late. The statute of limitations in Kentucky is two years, and because her husband died in January 2009, the statute would have expired in January 2011.
Since, however, the wife did not receive her husband’s autopsy report until April 2009, she subsequently filed a lawsuit against HHS, and an appeals court decided her claim did not expire until the date she received the autopsy. The Supreme Court has previously ruled that medical malpractice statute claims only begin when the plaintiff knows both the existence and cause of injury.
The appeals court confirmed that the statute of her claim depended on the date she was alerted of the possibility that the medical center caused her husband’s harm and consequent death. Since the physician initially informed her that her husband’s death was due to a blood clot, the appropriate date was actually when she received the autopsy.
Medical malpractice lawsuits arise from an array of complex situations. A similar suit was recently filed in Beaumont, Texas, after a woman was treated with a drug she was allergic to. The woman, Laura Laday, sought treatment at Fannett Medical Center for lower back pain, body aches, and swollen feet when she was administered Bactrim D.S., a sulfa drug.
Laday suffered a severe allergic reaction to Bactrim causing physical impairment, disfigurement, and deterioration of her physical and mental conditions. Additionally, according to her complaint, the injuries she suffered adversely affected her capacity to earn money.
Like the man in Kentucky, Laday’s allergen to Bactrim and all sulfa drugs was well-documented in her medical charts. Despite this clear indication, physicians at Fannett Medical prescribed and administered her a sulfa. When patients enter a medical center they assume their medical charts and information are up-to-date and available for review. They assume, rightly, that nurses and physicians do not administer drugs without first checking that an allergic reaction would occur, and when this trust is broken, the results can be catastrophic.
Medical malpractice laws were created and designed for patients like Laday and the Kentucky man who were subjected to severe harm and even killed through doctor negligence. A common source of this type of negligence is when local or general anesthesia is used. Anesthesiologists should ask all patients prior to surgery whether they have any known allergens, to prevent tragic situations like the ones described above.
Should an allergic reaction occur, physicians, nurses and anesthesiologists should take great care to minimize harm done to the patient. Medical malpractice attorneys at Pintas & Mullins have been working with victims of doctor negligence for over two decades. We have won millions for our clients who have been seriously injured by medical negligence. Contact one of our skilled malpractice attorneys today for a free, no-obligation legal consultation.