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Patient is Discharged from Hospital without Medically Necessary Device - $700,000 Settlement

We filed this case against seven hospital physicians because of communication errors that resulted in our client being discharged from the hospital without a life-saving cardiac device designed to intervene in the event a patient experiences a heart attack. Approximately four days after his discharge, our 58 year old client experienced a myocardial infarction that resulted in his death. In addition to the settlement, the hospital pledged that it had taken measures to improve communication between its care providers to avoid a situation that led to our client’s death.

Our client initially came to the hospital because of a sudden inability to speak. Emergency physicians at the hospital confirmed that he was having a stroke. He was admitted into the neurology department. While under the care of neurology, our client’s physicians noticed he was also having a problem with his heart. Cardiologists were contacted for a consult.

Testing revealed that he had recently experienced a silent heart attack that caused significant damage, reducing his ejection fraction (a measure of how much blood is pumped out of the heart with each contraction). His decreased ejection fraction created a high-risk for developing a fatal arrhythmia. Because of this damage, there was a chance that the client would need surgery to implant an internal cardioverter defibrillator (“ICD”). In this situation, it is standard for a patient to wait forty days before surgery because some patients improve enough after a heart attack that an ICD is not necessary.

On the second day of his hospitalization, one of the client’s cardiologists “highly recommended” a LifeVest to protect him during the forty-day waiting period. This recommendation is one of many references to the need for a LifeVest contained within Mr. Doe’s medical records. A LifeVest is a device which is worn over the patient’s chest that contains a heart monitor and a defibrillator. If the heart monitor detects an arrhythmia, the defibrillator administers a shock to correct the abnormal rhythm. Our client, and his family members (wife, son and daughter), accepted the cardiologist’s recommendation.

The client was held an extra night at the hospital because a LifeVest would not be available until the following day. During his extended stay, his neurologists and cardiologists communicated to the client that he needed for the LifeVest and records suggest that one of his cardiologists contacted the manufacturer to obtain the LifeVest. The client’s medical records reflect that his treating neurologist was aware of the need for a LifeVest on the date of discharge. On the date of discharge, a physician informed the client and his family that they were having difficulty obtaining a LifeVest. The client was discharged from the hospital without a LifeVest but was informed that it was ordered and would be delivered to his house the following day.

From the time of his discharge to his death, our client never contacted the hospital or any of his physicians when the LifeVest did not arrive. Four days later, in the early morning hours, the client experienced a heart attack that resulted in his death.

We settled the case at mediation for $700,000.