When we take loved ones to the emergency room, we expect them to receive the prompt medical attention they need. Sometimes everything in New York is busier than anticipated, and the emergency room is no exception. However, when there are more injured patients than available doctors, we expect the health care professionals to appropriately prioritize the most serious cases.
When staff members fail to appropriately triage cases, the results can be serious. One family is suing a hospital for medical malpractice because emergency room employees failed to appreciate and respond to the severity of their daughter’s condition. Two parents, Ryan and Leah, waited with their daughter in the emergency room for five hours. By the time she finally received treatment, a bacterial infection spread over her body, and doctors were forced to amputate part of all four of her limbs.
When Ryan and Leah brought their toddler to the emergency room, they were concerned about her persistent fever and skin discoloration. As they waited for hours in the emergency room, their daughter’s condition worsened, and a bacterial infection spread over her body.
By the time the doctors in the emergency room were ready to see Ryan and Leah’s daughter, the infection was so severe that she was flown to another hospital. The toddler was suffering from streptococcus A, and the growing infection consumed her body. As a result, both of her feet and her left hand were amputated, and a portion of her right hand was also removed.
The daughter is currently in intensive rehabilitation therapy, and there is no way of determining how much more treatment she will need or whether ongoing therapy will be necessary. Ryan and Leah are suing the hospital for medical malpractice and negligence, stating that the “hospital chose to negligently staff, operate and supervise the emergency room.”
The hospital released a press statement announcing that they were “sorry to hear about the eventual outcome for [the daughter].” Unfortunately, an apology is not enough to replace amputated body parts or to restore the quality of life that has been taken away from an innocent child. If the lawsuit is successful, it can help offset the cost of so called “economic damages” such as bills for hospital care, doctors, physical therapy and rehabilitation. However, the money recovered for this economic damage ultimately goes to the medical providers and not to the injured child. That is why compensation for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life is so vital to the well being of this child, because it can help to restore some quality of life and make up for the many things this child will never be able to experience and enjoy. Only by holding hospitals accountable for the needless harm they inflict on patients such as this will medical providers have an incentive to improve the quality of care and address systemic problems that endanger all patients. That is how the civil justice system helps improve public safety and patient care for everyone.
Source: Fox 40, “Parents Allege Medical Malpractice Led to Baby’s Amputations,” Sam Cohen and Elissa Harrington, 15 February 2011