Final Verdict: No Error In Liver Bleed
One of the most difficult things in any medical malpractice case is distinguishing between injuries caused by medical error and injuries caused by an underlying condition. In the latter case, the underlying condition can be a separate, unknown factor, a factor known to the physician and patient that could not be avoided, or even the very malady that the medical procedure was intended to remedy. Even when the presence of a medical error is obvious, it isn’t always easy to demonstrate that the medical error itself was the cause of the patient’s negative prognosis, pain, suffering, and added medical expenses.
No medical malpractice attorney who understands the difficulty of these cases will ever guarantee an outcome. However, it is safe to say that the more general the injury, in the end, the more challenging a case will be to prove. It may be fairly straightforward to show that a perforated lung could only have been caused by a specific surgical technique, but it can be much more difficult to show that general breathing problems trace to a particular prescription drug rather than another overall process.
In November of 2012, 60-year-old retiree Amritpal Achreja was suffering from chronic and ongoing inflammation of his gallbladder and went into Adventist Healthcare for a procedure to be conducted by Zahide Erkmen, an interventional radiologist operating in the ICU. A cholecystostomy, the procedure planned by Dr. Erkmen, involves creating an open space in the gallbladder that can then facilitate drainage through a simultaneously-placed tube catheter placed through the liver.
During the procedure, however, Amritpal began experiencing severe bleeding from his liver. Dr. Erkmen attempted a repair and left the catheter tube in place in the gallbladder. However, Amritpal stated that although he eventually made a recovery, he sustained prolonged and ongoing bleeding. He hired Donald Discepolo, a medical malpractice attorney, who sued Dr. Erkmen and Adventist Healthcare for medical malpractice, surgical error, radiology malpractice, a lack of informed consent, and negligent treatment.
Prior to trial, Adventist Healthcare was dismissed from the suit, meaning that the case proceeded with Dr. Erkmen as the only defendant. The trial lasted for four days and included testimony from experts hired by both sides. Amritpal argued that the prolonged bleeding was caused by negligence on the part of Dr. Erkmen and was not a normal or expected risk of the planned procedure. However, experts hired by the defense argued that placing the catheter through the liver was a normal and accepted technique. They also argued that Erkmen did not do or fail to do anything which violated any standard of medical care.
Stanford Health explains the ordinary basics of a cholecystostomy:
Using ultrasound and live X-ray (fluoroscopy) for guidance, the radiologist will insert a small needle through the skin and into the gallbladder, and then place a tiny catheter into the gallbladder. The catheter will be connected to a drainage bag or bulb, which will be located outside of the body in the right upper abdomen.
After deliberating for 45 hours, the jury finally returned with a verdict stating that Dr. Erkmen was not negligent and owed no damages to Amritpal. Cohen & Cohen, P.C.