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Doctor error leads to $15.2 million damage award

Montana parents often rely on physicians for advice on what medications to give their children. But in a heartbreaking story out of Washington State, a mother who followed a physician's advice in giving an over-the-counter cold medication saw her four-year-old child go into cardiac arrest and suffer a devastating brain injury. The little girl, now eight years old, cannot walk, speak or swallow. Earlier this month a Washington judge awarded the parents $15.2 million in what is believed to be one of the largest medical malpractice recoveries in that state's history.

A simple communication error may have been the cause of this tragedy. The girl was born with a heart defect and underwent a heart transplant shortly after she was born. At the age of four she caught a cold and her mother called Seattle Children's Hospital for advice. She spoke to a doctor who in turn checked with a specialist. The specialist allegedly warned against using the over-the-counter medication Afrin, because it could cause cardiac arrest in a transplant recipient.

But somehow the first doctor misunderstood or forgot the warning about Afrin. He recommended several medications to the mother, including Afrin. When the mother gave the child Afrin, she went into cardiac arrest, which led to significant brain damage due to lack of oxygen.

Medical negligence can have devastating consequences. The large award in this case will help this family pay their daughter's medical expenses, including the round-the-clock nursing care she now needs. It will also help them finance other treatment options, including stem cell treatment, which the family hopes will restore some of the neurological damage.

Source: Medical Daily, "Family Wins $15.2M After Medical Miscommunication Leaves MacKenzie Briant With Devastating Brain Damage," Lecia Bushak, July 13, 2013

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