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Family awarded $4 million in failure to diagnose case

Medical technology has greatly advanced the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and acute ailments by medical professionals, but the technology only works to the advantage of the patient when it is utilized. In circumstances where it is not used, it can be detrimental to a patient. Massachusetts patients may be interested to learn about a recent jury verdict in another state after a failure to diagnose may have resulted in a woman's death.

Apparently, the woman visited the emergency room late one night due to severe chest pain. According to expert testimony in a wrongful death lawsuit, her symptoms were classic for symptoms of an aortic dissection. Because the aorta is a large artery supplying blood flow to the entire body, any damage or dysfunction can be life-threatening. Experts testified that an emergency room doctor would have likely been able to correctly diagnose the woman had a CT scan of her chest been completed, but it was not. The doctor diagnosed her with musculoskeletal pain and discharged her to home. 

The pain continued, and the woman visited her primary care physician the following day. He as well believed she had a muscle spasm or strain. No tests were ordered, and the woman was again not adequately diagnosed. Sadly, she died not long after the visit as a result of her aortic dissection at the age of 47. Her family filed a wrongful death lawsuit, and the jury agreed that the emergency room physician was liable for his failure to arrange the needed CT scan. 

The jury heard the family's case and awarded the family nearly $4 million for economic and non-economic losses. Families who lose a loved one suddenly are often in shock during the initial stages of grief. Learning that a death may have been prevented likely only adds anger in the grief process. Massachusetts attorneys can advise families who suspect their loved one may have died due to a medical doctor's failure to diagnose. If a family chooses to do so, legal recourse through a wrongful death lawsuit may be possible.

Source:, "Jury awards family $3.9 million in wrongful death lawsuit", Liz Shephard, March 2, 2018

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