Final Verdict: Blood Loss Not Cause of Death
Most of the patients’ doctors see on an everyday basis show symptoms that have been seen many times before. For a lot of patients, it may feel as though they are going through a cookie-cutter process and being treated as if their symptoms are the same as everybody else’s. It can be understandable why someone would feel that way. In many cases, that’s more or less true.
At the same time, patients often present with multiple overlapping conditions that aren’t necessarily easy to tell apart. The interactions of different symptoms can cause unseen or unforeseeable effects. In cases like these, a doctor should be careful not to jump to conclusions and be honest with the patient about their likely diagnoses. If a doctor isn’t comfortable providing a specific diagnosis, he or she should say so.
In some cases, a patient’s condition is not easily treatable, and even expert care isn’t enough to fix the problems. This is not medical malpractice, but simply an unfortunate case where the doctors didn’t have enough time or enough capacity to save the patient.
On March 11, 2013, 92-year-old retiree William Rosenthal arrived in the emergency room at Northwest Hospital Center in Baltimore with a severe nosebleed. Tragically, he passed away less than a day after arriving. His estate and family members filed suit against the hospital and various treating providers, alleging wrongful death, failure to treat, and medical malpractice resulting in hemorrhage and cardiac arrest.
William’s estate and family argued that the hospital failed to properly treat his nosebleed and that he bled to death as a result. The hospital, on the other hand, claimed that William’s death was the result of cardiac arrest connected to prior medical conditions and his advanced age. After a series of motions, in which several defendants obtained summary dismissals, the case went to trial before a Baltimore County, Maryland jury.
During the week-long trial, medical malpractice experts brought by William’s estate and family argued to the jury that William suffered frequent recurrent nosebleeds as a result of taking Coumadin and aspirin and having had prior atrial fibrillation. They claimed that when he came to the emergency room, the doctors merely attempted to reverse and pack the bleed, rather than stopping it altogether, and that William bled to death as a result.
However, the defense had a different explanation. Experts hired by the attorneys for the hospital testified that William received medically-indicated treatment suitable for his presentation and medical conditions. They said that because of the medication William was taking, trying to stop the bleed was nearly impossible and medically challenging. The experts painted a picture in which the hospital took every possible step to protect William, but ultimately was unable to make it work out. They also argued that it was cardiac arrest, not hypotension or blood loss, which ultimately caused William’s death.
The jury only deliberated for three hours before returning a verdict of no malpractice on December 12, 2017. William’s estate and family are appealing this ruling. Cohen & Cohen