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Charleston lawsuit: Late hematoma diagnosis caused suffering

No matter how many patients a West Virginia doctor treats, the physician is expected to provide each one with the highest possible level of health care. While a medical professional's schedule can be hectic, physician negligence is inexcusable. Doctors may be held accountable for mistakes, which can include not diagnosing a condition before a patient suffers an unnecessary injury.

A recently filed lawsuit claims a Charleston Area Medical Center doctor waited too long to discover a condition that left a 73-year-old patient unable to walk. The plaintiff was under treatment at the facility for Crohn's disease when the man reported a loss of strength in his legs. The intensive care patient suffered paralysis nearly a week before the doctor discovered what was wrong.

The defendant apparently ordered an MRI four days after the initial patient complaint in February 2013. The symptoms persisted and a second MRI was performed the following day. Results showed the patient was suffering from epidural hematoma.

UCLA neurologists describe an epidural hematoma as a swollen collection of blood between the skull and brain membrane. The condition is treatable without surgery when caught early, before the hematoma has a chance to create problems that sometimes lead to comas and death. The plaintiff's condition was detected after surgery was required, which was not an option for the older man.

The patient remains a paraplegic, whose post-diagnostic treatment includes steroids to combat inflammation and swelling. The lawsuit requests damages for delayed diagnosis, which led to paralysis, pain, mental trauma, disfigurement and financial losses due to medical bills and lost wages. A Kanawha Circuit Court was asked to award punitive damages on top of compensatory damages.

A defendant's standard of care is determined by actions other doctors or health care professionals would take under similar medical circumstances. A physician who has breached the duty of care is deemed negligent and responsible for paying damage awards.

Source: The West Virginia Record, "Delayed diagnosis leads to paralysis, suit claims" Kelly Holleran, May. 23, 2014

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