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Jury concludes cardiologist committed malpractice

Even the best doctors can make mistakes. Montana readers may be interested in a recent jury verdict that illustrates that point. The jury concluded that medical negligence by a prominent cardiologist led to the death of a 59-year-old woman after her surgery. Specifically, the jury found the doctor failed to adequately monitor a medication given to the woman following the surgery.

The woman underwent heart surgery in July, 2009. After the surgery, the doctor prescribed the medication Coumadin, which is designed to prevent clotting by thinning the blood. The woman was placed on a daily dose of the drug. A few days after the woman was discharged from the hospital, the doctor tested for Coumadin levels and found them in the normal range. He planned to conduct another test a few weeks later, but allegedly failed to do so.

Expert witnesses testified that Coumadin is a very strong medication, and that doctors need to watch its effects on a patient carefully. The lawyer for the woman's family argued that if the doctor had conducted more tests, he would have noticed an unusual level of blood thinning. This doctor error eventually resulted in internal bleeding which proved fatal, according to the attorney. An expert witness for the physician disagreed and testified that the death was not caused by the medication. The jury apparently gave more credence to the family's expert, however.

The jury awarded the woman's family $138,000 for funeral and medical expenses, and $1 million for emotional distress. The $1 million award will be reduced to $250,000, however, under a state law limiting compensation for noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases.

Medical malpractice cases require experienced attorneys who can understand the complex medical evidence and present it to a jury. They require long hours of preparation with expert witnesses. An attorney experienced in this field can help a family evaluate whether they have a good case and guide them through the litigation process.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, "Malpractice verdict for SF cardiologist," Bob Egelko, Sept. 14, 2012

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