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Jury says failing to do diagnostic tests is medical malpractice

January 12th, 2016
On behalf of David Bowling of The Bowling Christiansen Law Firm, A Professional Law Corporation posted in Medical Malpractice on Tuesday, January 12, 2016.

The rules of negligence control medical negligence lawsuits in Louisiana and all other states. In general, when a person is having chest pain that may be symptomatic of an impending heart attack, physicians who fail to order appropriate diagnostic tests may be liable for damages when the patient dies shortly thereafter due to a heart attack. That is basically what happened in a medical malpractice case in another state, according to the verdict of $950,000 that the jury recently awarded to the decedent’s family. In 2008, the 73-year-old man had made two visits to the defendant emergency room and to his primary care physician complaining of chest pain.

The treating doctor and the emergency room doctors did not order cardiac testing or make a proper referral. The main theory of the case was therefore the alleged failure to conduct appropriate diagnostic tests to find out the source of the chest pain. One key issue under these facts is whether the symptoms presented at the emergency room would have necessitated cardiac testing as a minimum  response under the circumstances.

Apparently, plaintiff’s medical experts answered the question in the positive by testifying that the symptoms called for further testing to rule out a heart attack. After being discharged from that first visit, the patient returned and was admitted to the hospital with a fluctuating heart rate and pulse. He was discharged three days later, but returned to the hospital and died the same day.

The case turned on the failure of the doctors to order the proper diagnostic tests for issues of cardiac ischemia and atherosclerosis, along with failing to draw and study cardiac enzymes. Basically, the man died of a myocardial infarction — a heart attack. The plaintiff’s attorney described it as a strong liability case, probably largely due the doctors having the patient for several days without ordering the indicated tests. The jury determined that the facts indicated medical malpractice. That finding would generally be supported by Louisiana law as well as the law of medical negligence in all other states.

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

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