Ignoring a Patient’s Complaints of Discomfort Leads to Tragedy

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A forty-three year old diesel mechanic had his gallbladder removed by ‘routine' laparoscopic (minimally invasive) surgery. He felt very poorly after the procedure and was kept for overnight observation. Not feeling much better the next day, the patient and his wife asked the attending surgeon if he could extend his stay at the hospital. Dismissing the patient's pleas, his surgeon said he looked well and should go home. Over the next two-and-a-half days, the patient and his wife called the hospital and surgeon's office four times reporting steady pain, weakness and sleeplessness that remained unchanged despite taking pain medications as prescribed. After the fourth call, the patient's wife was told by his surgeon to bring him back to the hospital. Before she could get him there, however, the patient collapsed and died in his home. A subsequent autopsy showed the patient's pain to be caused by an easily-curable bowel condition. An analysis of pain medications administered while he was in the hospital showed a clear indicator that something was wrong. A deposition of the defendant surgeon also disclosed that the surgeon was quite deaf and that at the time he was asked if the husband could stay longer, his hearing aides had completely failed and he was awaiting an appointment for stronger hearing aides. A confidential, multi-million dollar settlement was obtained for the patient's family one week before trial.

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