Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

Oftentimes cancer medical negligence cases in Illinois hinge on a failure to diagnose cancer in a timely manner. However, a recent Chicago wrongful death settlement deals with a different type of medical negligence surrounding a cancer patient’s treatment. In this case a woman with endometrial cancer died as a result of a perforated bowel, which her estate claimed was the result of her receiving 50 percent more radiation than was necessary.

Decedent Patricia Quirk was diagnosed with stage three endometrial cancer and received all of her radiation treatments at Chicago’s Little Company of Mary Hospital. While the first third of her radiation treatments were appropriate, it was the last two-thirds of her radiation treatment that resulted in the Chicago hospital’s medical negligence. In essence, the decedent was ‘over-radiated’, receiving two times as much radiation at each treatment than was necessary and safe.

Even radiation given in appropriate amounts comes with some negative side effects, including nausea, fatigue/malaise, and hair loss. Yet when given in overwhelmingly large amounts, radiation can have disastrous effects on one’s body, as the decedent’s case unfortunately illustrates. The large doses of radiation eventually caused decedent’s bowel to perforate, or tear, which resulted in a blood infection and her eventual death.

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The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed a Cook County medical malpractice jury verdict in favor of the defendant doctors regarding the death of an orthopedic surgeon from an allegedly misdiagnosed malignant nasal polyp. The plaintiff’s appeal had focused on alleged violations of the Dead Man’s Act. Agins v. Otolaryngology Group, Ltd., et al., No. 1-08-3207.

The facts of the case begin when the decedent presented to an otolaryngologist complaining of a severe nose bleed for six days straight. On examination, it was found that the decedent had a 5-millimeter opening to the airway on the right side with severe scarring and a polyp on the anterior part of his right nose. The bleeding was stopped by the doctor through cauterization and the decedent was advised to get a CT scan and referred to another doctor with more expertise.

The decedent continue to follow up with the same physician group over the next few months. Then about five months later the decedent followed up with yet another physician who diagnosed the polyp as neuroblastoma cancer. While the polyp was removed, the decedent died from the cancer two years later.

In the Cook County medical malpractice lawsuit brought by the decedent’s widow, it was claimed that the otolaryngology group that the decedent saw several times during the summer of 2000 and who had cauterized the decedent’s nose bleed but did not otherwise evaluate or treat the decedent’s condition, which in turn led to the failure to diagnose the cancer. However, the defendant doctor claimed that he never saw the decedent in his office.

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A recent Cook County medical malpractice verdict of $22.3 million was awarded to the parents of a now ten year-old boy. A review of the case reveals that the damages included the loss of both legs as well as brain injuries that included cognitive and neurological abilities. These severe damages were allegedly the result of a delay in diagnosing and treating the boy’s congenital heart defect.

This case is an unfortunate example of the way that a series of seemingly minor delays and mistakes can lead to disastrous outcomes. The boy was born with a congenital heart defect and had a shunt placed just two days after his birth in an attempt to correct this defect. However, this proved inadequate and two weeks later the baby returned to the emergency room, at which time an echocardiogram suggested that the shunt was partially blocked.

At this point instead of immediately preceding with a surgery to correct the blocked shunt, the attending cardiologist ordered a cardiac catheterization. This procedure was ordered not to correct the baby’s defect, but according to plaintiff’s attorneys was done simply to confirm the diagnosis of the blocked shunt that had been made by another doctor. The plaintiff’s attorneys further alleged that the cardiac catheterization unnecessarily delayed the surgery and directly contributed to the Cook County medical negligence.

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Bleeding seems like a simple enough problem to correct. We’ve all had a cut or scrape that has resulted in some sort of bleed and we all know the proper way to stop the bleeding: apply pressure and elevate the area. However, when bleeding is internal it is a completely different matter and can result in severe medical complications or death.

This concept is illustrated by a recent Illinois wrongful death settlement where a hospital’s failure to recognize a brain bleed in a timely manner resulted in this man’s death. The decedent had presented to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital and was admitted to the hospital’s surgical intensive care unit for neurological observation after he sustained a brain injury as a result of hitting his head in a fall. Upon his admission a CT scan showed a small hemorrhage in his brain, which is basically another way of saying he there was a small bleed in his brain.

The plaintiff’s family alleged that the healthcare providers were medically negligent in their failure to recognize the importance of subsequent signs that indicated that this brain bleed had progressed. Further, they alleged that the doctors should have known and acted on those signs in time to prevent permanent damage and death by ordering an operation that would have relieved the increased pressure in the decedent’s brain.

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A Cook County resident filed a medical negligence lawsuit against a neurosurgeon and neurologist who allegedly failed to correctly diagnose a cancerous growth on the man’s spine. The delay in the diagnosis allowed the tumor to grow larger, which resulted in partial paralysis and permanent neurological deficits.

This particular Chicago medical malpractice lawsuit demonstrates the importance of a timely diagnosis. A review of the case facts indicates that if this man’s tumor had been diagnosed earlier that his resulting paralysis would not have developed to the same degree of severity. This issue of a delay in diagnosis lies at the center of many Chicago medical negligence cases.

The 50-some year-old male presented to the physicians at NorthShore University Health System, f/k/a Evanston Northwestern Healthcare, with complaints of lower back pain and leg numbness. An MRI was ordered, which did in fact show the cancerous growth on the spine. However, the neurosurgeon didn’t identify the growth and the neurologist reportedly didn’t view the MRI film prior to reaching the incorrect diagnosis.

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A Cook County birth injury lawsuit that alleged a baby boy had suffered severe brain damage during a delay in his birth was settled. The medical malpractice lawsuit was against Northwest Community Hospital, a nurse midwife, and the midwife’s employer. The case was settled and approved by a Cook County Circuit Court judge.

What was particularly interesting about the case was that the delivery was actually a waterbirth. A waterbirth is a birthing method wherein the mother is immersed in a small pool of warm water. Proponents of this method argue that it is safe and offers improved pain relief for the mother and less trauma for the baby.

In this particular Cook County birth injury case, the baby’s shoulder became trapped during the end of the delivery. The plaintiff alleged that the nurse midwife and assisting nurses did not drain the birth tub quickly enough to use the standard birthing maneuvers to free the baby’s shoulder, and that their actions delayed the baby’s delivery. Any delay in delivery can result in harm to the baby, and in this case the plaintiff alleged that the delay resulted in oxygen deprivation and brain damage in the form of cerebral palsy.

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A jury returned a Chicago medical malpractice verdict for the family of a 45 year-old diabetic woman who died after suffering a cardiopulmonary arrest while in the emergency department of Little Company of Mary Hospital. The woman is survived by two children and a husband.

The decedent’s estate alleged that the Chicago emergency room nurses failed to appropriately triage the patient as “urgent” and to properly monitor her deteriorating physical condition, which it alleged was medical negligence on the part of the Chicago hospital. According to reports, the defendant’s argued at the trial that warning alarms on devices monitoring the patient’s vital signs did not activate to indicate that her condition was worsening toward cardiac and respiratory arrest. However, the jury obviously did not buy into this defense and found that the Chicago emergency room errors had resulted in the decedent’s death.

The woman had severe hyperglycemia when she arrived at the Chicago hospital. Hyperglycemia is a condition in which an excessive amount of glucose/sugar circulates in the blood and is something that the Chicago emergency room staff should evaluate for, especially in those already diagnosed with diabetes. Signs and symptoms of hyperglycemia include high blood glucose levels, high levels of sugar in the urine, frequent urination, and increased thirst. If left untreated hyperglycemia can worsen quickly and develop into a diabetic coma.

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An recent Illinois medical malpractice jury verdict was affirmed by the Illinois Fifth District Appellate in favor of an injured plaintiff in a medical malpractice lawsuit. The appellate court’s decision effectively denied a physician’s claims that the plaintiff had failed to effectively prove the defendant had breached the standard of care. Cummings v. Jha, M.D., et al., No. 5-0-0182.

The plaintiff’s, Kevin Cummings, original Illinois medical malpractice claim for a failure to diagnose and treat a bile leak following surgery was against two physicians; however, the physician who performed the actual surgery settled out of court. Therefore the jury verdict was only against one of the physicians, a doctor who had been standing in for the defendant surgeon while he was out of town.

The stand-in physician appealed the $210,000 jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff, claiming that he was entitled to a judgment notwithstanding the verdict and contending that the plaintiff failed to show he breached the standard of care or that the alleged breach was a proximate cause of Cummings’ injury. However, the Illinois Appellate Court rejected those arguments and affirmed the lower court’s medical malpractice verdict.

The court said that the evidence showed that the second doctor breached the standard of care when he failed to fully investigate and inquire about Cummings’ history and didn’t obtain sufficient information to make an appropriate clinical diagnosis. One of the experts for plaintiff also testified that the history of plaintiff’s gallbladder surgery should have prompted a reasonably competent physician to investigate Cummings for a surgical complication.

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A woman brought an Cook County medical malpractice lawsuit against her gynecologist for a failure to diagnose her breast cancer in a timely manner. The woman had been seeing the defendant gynecologist regularly since the mid-1980s, but the diagnosis was not made until May 2000, at which point the woman was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer. The Illinois Appellate Court upheld a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff, rejecting the defendant’s arguments. Dienstag v. Margolies, No. 1-06-1558.

As early as 1991 the woman underwent a breast biopsy after her left breast showed an area of calcification. While that biopsy returned benign, i.e. non-cancerous results, the results did show atypical ductal hyperplasia. Furthermore, the woman was at an increased risk for developing cancer due to a family history of cancer.

Following the ’91 biopsy the woman underwent annual mammograms to screen for possible breast cancer. Also significant is that in 1998 her gynecologist prescribed estrogen, which could increase the risk for breast cancer, to alleviate menopause symptoms.

The following November, the plaintiff began to complain to her gynecologist of breast tenderness and enlargement. However, on exam the doctor could not feel any dominant lump so continued her estrogen treatments. Then in May 2000, the gynecologist was able to feel a palpable lump in her breast. At that point she was referred to a surgeon for another breast biopsy. This time the results were malignant.

At that point plaintiff was diagnosed Stage III breast cancer, which is fairly progressive. She required a modified and radical mastectomy to entirely remove her left breast and any involved lymph nodes. She later had reconstructive surgery.

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A recent Illinois settlement in a Cook County medical malpractice claim sought to compensate the family of a 53 year-old man who died during a heart transplant surgery. The issue in the Illinois wrongful death case was whether the man would have even required the surgery if his internist had correctly interpreted test results from several years preceding his death.

The decedent had undergone regular annual exams with his internist, which each year included an electrocardiogram (EKG) that was performed by the internist. EKGs are typically used to analyze a patient’s heart rhythm and identify any abnormalities. The internist interpreted all of the decedent’s EKGs from 1998 to 2002 to be normal.

However, in November 2002, the man suffered a massive heart attack, which resulted in extensive heart damage. At that point a triple bypass surgery was performed and a pacemaker was placed. However, from this point forward the man was unable to continue his previously-active lifestyle due to his congestive heart failure. Nor was he able to return to his job as a baggage handler because it was too demanding considering his present condition.

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