Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Ex-nurse blows the whistle on ER staff's medical malpractice

A missed diagnosis gives illness or disease time to worsen. A Pittsburgh patient can be endangered further by being treated for a problem he or she doesn't have. An immediate diagnosis may not be possible, but physicians are obliged to provide a high quality standard of care without inflicting unnecessary harm.

A man suffering abdominal pain last May was taken to a hospital, where he died several hours later. The man was relegated to a portion of the emergency room for noncritical cases. A nurse administered half a dozen doses of morphine.

The man's family couldn't understand how a complaint of constipation could lead to death. An autopsy said a blockage killed the man, but the medical examiner also noted morphine was detrimental to the patient's condition. Then, a knock came on the surviving spouse's door.

The visitor had been working in the hospital when the 57-year-old man died. The former emergency room nurse said she reported medical malpractice and was fired for her efforts. The ex-employee stated the charge and staff nurses tried to alter the patient's medical record and ordered the complaining coordinator not to talk with anyone about the case.

The nurse filed a lawsuit against the hospital, now under investigation by the state medical board. The board charged the nurse who gave the patient morphine with failing to monitor and document the patient's condition. The nurse did not respond to the charges and left the state.

The "whistleblower" nurse's revelations prompted the patient's family to file complaints with the medical board, including claims other hospital staff members were negligent. The board dismissed a claim the doctor who prescribed morphine was careless. Hospital administrators have denied all allegations.

A physician's failure to diagnose a serious condition can threaten a patient's life. To determine negligence, juries measure a doctor's standard of care against how other medical professionals would act under similar circumstances.

Source: KDFW, "Investigation - Denton hospital lawsuit" Becky Oliver, Feb. 26, 2014

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Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.
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Pittsburgh, PA 15222

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