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Pulmonary Embolus Wrongful Death Case Result

Delayed Diagnosis Of Pulmonary Embolus Lawyer

High six-figure settlement for the family of an elderly woman who had died due to failure to treat a pulmonary embolus at a Pittsburgh hospital. The woman had a history of prior pulmonary embolus and came into the hospital with signs and symptoms of another one, but she was not given blood-thinning medication such as heparin soon enough and ended up dying one day after arriving at the hospital.

What Is A Pulmonary Embolism?

A pulmonary embolus is a blood clot that generally starts in the leg and then breaks free and travels to the lung. It can often cause sudden and unexpected death. In most cases, the only prior symptoms are perhaps some shortness of breath and swelling in one of the legs. Therefore, it is important that doctors have a high index of suspicion and quickly order tests that can determine whether the patient, in fact, has blood clots in the legs or smaller clots that have broken free and already begun to travel to the lung. The best test to detect clots in the leg is an ultrasound, which is a noninvasive test. If clots are detected, the best line of treatment is to administer blood-thinning drugs such as heparin. Those drugs do not necessarily dissolve existing clots, but they prevent more clots from forming and therefore adding to the so-called clot burden. For some patients, if it is not practical to use blood-thinning drugs, the doctor may surgically insert a filter that prevents any migrating clots from getting to the lung, but that is used less frequently than blood thinners.

Emergency Room Doctors Must Be Looking For Pulmonary Embolus

In this particular case, when the elderly woman arrived at the emergency room, the doctors suspected that she may have a pulmonary embolus, but they did not use blood thinners because they mistakenly thought that she was allergic to them. That mistake came about because an earlier doctor who had treated the patient had incorrectly indicated that she was allergic to heparin when, in fact, lab tests showed that she was not allergic to the drug. Unfortunately, the doctor apparently never saw the lab test and, therefore, when the new doctors went back and looked at her old records, it still said that she was allergic to heparin. Therefore, they did not administer this blood-thinning agent nor did they give her any other treatment for a pulmonary embolus such as a substitute drug or a filter. In essence, she got virtually no treatment and ended up dying the next day.

The hospital acknowledged that there was a mistake made about the heparin, but they claimed that the heparin probably would not have done any good because the woman was already taking another blood thinner, Coumadin, and despite using that drug, she still developed blood clots. Our response was that her chances of surviving would have been much better had she gotten the heparin. In fact, the doctors had said they would have given her heparin if they knew she was not allergic to it because they thought it would help her chances.

Wrongful Death Damages For Loss Of Parent

Although this woman was elderly and had no surviving spouse, she did have two adult children, and they were entitled to claim wrongful death damages for the loss of the relationship with their mother. As with many cases involving elderly people, was a challenge to prove damages in the case. Typically, they are not employed, and if they do not have a surviving husband/wife, it limits how much can be claimed in the way of damages. If there are minor children, i.e., children under the age of 18, then there are significant damages when a parent dies. In this case, the children were grown adults and were no longer dependent on their mother for financial support. Nevertheless, the law recognizes that there is a loss of a relationship that even an adult child experiences, and that was certainly part of our wrongful death claim in this case.


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