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WANTED: Good Medical Malpractice Attorney for Wrongful Death

This is a discussion on WANTED: Good Medical Malpractice Attorney for Wrongful Death within the Medical Malpractice forum, part of the HEALTHCARE LAW & MALPRACTICE category; Unnecessary surgery was performed on my 78 yr old father after postponement was requested. I requested postponement because the anesthesiologist ...

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Old Aug 25th, 2010, 12:10 PM   #1
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Confused WANTED: Good Medical Malpractice Attorney for Wrongful Death

Unnecessary surgery was performed on my 78 yr old father after postponement was requested. I requested postponement because the anesthesiologist called me at home the morning of surgery to warn me of the danger to my dad. The surgery was to replace an infected aortic graft that was placed on my father's abdominal aorta to repair an aneurysm there several years ago.

My father was gravely ill when paramedics took him to the hospital in mid-June this year. At first, I thought the cause was a urinary tract infection. I called 911 the day he was brought there because he looked deathly ill. The day after he was admitted, his vascular surgeon called and told me my dad had a more serious infection. He said my father had an infected aortic graft. Treatment meant either surgery or lifetime antibiotic therapy and my father was too sick for surgery (the preferred treatment). The antibiotics made my father feel better, although I did not think he was well enough for major surgery – but I am not a doctor.

Surprisingly, my father’s surgeon changed his mind and scheduled my father for surgery on July 27. On the morning of his surgery, I received a call from the anesthesiologist who was very concerned for my father. He asked me, “are you sure you want to go through with this? Your father could die on the table, you know. The risks involved are very great for him because of his poor condition.” I asked him if it was too late to cancel or postpone and he said it was not too late because they could not start until the surgeon arrived, so I had to hurry.

I arrived at the hospital before the surgeon and asked the staff if the operation could be postponed and a nurse said, “Sure, it’s no problem”, she would let the surgeon know as soon as he arrived.

But after the surgeon arrived, I asked him if he could wait until my father’s condition improved before operating, instead of obliging me, he chastised me in front of several hospital staff members. He said, “I thought we discussed this and decided it’s your father’s only hope…” Although I do not remember this discussion, I relented because I felt the surgeon knew my father better than the anesthesiologist did.

Thankfully, my father made it through the surgery.

The next day, the surgeon called and told me the aortic graft in my father’s abdomen was not infected after all, in fact it was holding good; there was just fluid surrounding it that made it look infected when he ran tests a few weeks before. However, the surgeon continued to tell me that, while he was there, he checked another graft - one that was sewn several years ago in the aorta supplying blood to his leg (in his groin area). He said that graft looked like it might start leaking someday, so he replaced it instead of the one on the abdominal aorta that he thought was infected but wasn’t.

Approximately 10 days later while my dad was recuperating at a skilled nursing facility across the street from the hospital, he needed two units of blood because the groin incision was bleeding. The nurse told me his surgeon had gone on vacation, but she finally got instructions from his partner to give my dad a transfusion.

The next day, I went to visit my dad but he was not in his room and his bed looked freshly made. His nurse told me they took him across the street to the emergency room because the incision in his groin was bleeding again (or still). He was brought back to the nursing facility that same night.

3 days later, I went again to visit him but when I got to his room, not only was he not in his bed; his bed was not even in his room! His nurse told me they took him back to the emergency room because of blood loss from the incision in his groin - again. I went across the street to the hospital’s ER but had to wait in the hallway while they gave him a CAT scan. While waiting, an ER doctor told me that my father was brought to the emergency room because he was losing too much blood from the surgical wound in his groin and shortly after his arrival, the loss of blood caused a sudden drop in blood pressure, which in turn caused my father to go into shock and then cardiac arrest. The doctor said they performed CPR on him for 10 minutes before reviving him, but he was on the ventilator and would probably not survive through the night. He died about 3 hours later.

Note: At first, the vascular surgeon did not want to do the surgery to repair my father’s “infected” aortic graft because of his poor condition; and because my dad had stents placed in his heart 8 months ago that required him to be on blood thinner for at least 12 months afterwards. The doctor said my father’s “infected” aortic graft could be treated with a lifetime of antibiotic therapy (although not the preferred treatment). The antibiotics did make my father feel better soon after IV therapy began, but I do not know if that is why his surgeon suddenly changed his mind and opted to do surgery after all. Apparently, the anesthesiologist saw something about my father’s condition to contraindicate such a major and complex surgery, something the surgeon missed perhaps. On the other hand, was the surgeon’s upcoming vacation contingent upon the proceeds of my father’s surgery?

We knew the risks of surgery - – which is why I requested postponement (after the anesthesiologist made it sound like my dad was the last person that should be undergoing this type of operation) -- so I cannot say that his death was totally unexpected. However, since he survived the surgery and lived two weeks after it, I thought he was in the clear.

My dad expected to live as well; because every time I visited him after his surgery, he asked me to take him back home with me, he even hid my car keys so I could not leave without him. We were hoping he would have been home by now, had he lived. My family and I lived with my father in exchange for help around the house and me taking care of him (he was non-ambulatory so I bathed, changed and fed him and gave him his insulin and 14 other medications). I was his only child. My family and I loved my father and he loved us.

Monetarily, his death has affected us as well. He obtained a high interest reverse mortgage on his home 5 years ago. Had he lived a little longer, the housing market might have improved, making it easier to sell his house to repay the loan; and, we would have had more time to prepare for our inevitable displacement. However, as it is now, I have a short time to offload 40+ years of my father’s personal belongings and household furnishings; and, to sell my “inheritance” hopefully, at or near market value to satisfy his loan balance. With the current housing market, I gave up hope of being able to sell it above the loan balance so we might have some extra money left over for new lodgings.

Q: Do I have any legal recourse for the loss of my father? He may have been 78 years old, but he wanted to live until he was 95 and he was ornery enough to do it. He should not have bled to death in a hospital 2 weeks after having surgery that was unwanted and not needed. If so, would the prospective award be lucrative enough to warrant a decent malpractice attorney to take the case on a contingency basis?

I prepared a more in-depth summary of what happened to the best of my knowledge, based on what I observed and what was told to me, but I am still waiting to see his death certificate for the official cause of death. What if the official cause(s) of death differs substantially from what I was told by the emergency room doctor? My father was buried on Friday, August 20, 2010, and no autopsy was done.
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Old Aug 25th, 2010, 12:27 PM   #2
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Default Re: WANTED: Good Medical Malpractice Attorney for Wrongful Death

I wish to inform you that you may file a suit for medical malpractice. In this regard you will be required to show that treatment of your father was incorrect or that hospital authorities were negligent in performing his duties. Unnecessary surgery of your father and subsequent treatment of your father shows that hospital was negligent. Your father was put in emergency because of unnecessary surgery and therefore hospital is liable. You may first give a notice to the hospital regarding lawsuit and can demand compensation. If hospital refuses then you may file a suit for medical malpractice and can demand compensation. You may show negligence of hospital by report from other expert doctor who may present his expert report regarding treatment of your father.

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Old Aug 25th, 2010, 04:25 PM   #3
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Red Face Re: WANTED: Good Medical Malpractice Attorney for Wrongful Death

Thank you for replying so fast, your advice is appreciated, although, now I have more questions.

I am willing to approach the hospital (and surgeon) to demand compensation for my father's wrongful death. At first, I thought the surgeon held the majority of responsibility for his death, but when I think about it more, the hospital committed various acts and omissions that contributed to his death as well. The surgeon belongs to an association of surgeons and is not an employee of the hospital. He is authorized to operate at most of the hospitals in the area.

Regarding Medical Records:

· How do I request my father's medical records?
· When do I request his medical records, before or after demanding compensation?
· Are there official forms or specific formats that are used to make this request?

Regarding Demand for Compensation:

· Should I approach just the hospital, or both the surgeon and hospital, albeit separately to demand compensation?
· Is there an official form or a specific format that is used to demand compensation?
· How much should I ask for - Is there a formula used to calculate damages for medical malpractice/wrongful death cases?

Regarding Expert Witness:

· What attributes would I look for in an expert witness that would be qualified to judge the work of my father’s vascular surgeon?
· Could I expect an expert witness to give an honest assessment of a fellow medical professional’s treatment of my father?

All help is appreciated. Thank you
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