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West Virginia suit: Feeding tube errors led to permanent damage

Hospital patients are dependent upon the skills of highly trained medical professionals. Several people are involved in a single hospital patient's care, from doctors who issue orders to individuals who carry out instructions. Medical malpractice occurs when preventable mistakes occur in this chain of patient care.

Two West Virginia doctors are defendants in a lawsuit filed by a patient treated following an April 2012 all-terrain vehicle accident. The patient was hospitalized with several fractures, along with brain bruising and bleeding and heart and lung contusions. He was then transferred to a rehabilitation facility.

The patient's nutrition was supplied by nasogastric feeding tubes. The tubes were replaced over several days, after the patient managed to remove them. A doctor, one of the defendants, then ordered a percutaneous endoscopic gastronomy tube, which provides drugs and nutrition directly to the stomach, according to a description by the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.

Telephone instructions to begin tube feedings were ordered by another physician, the second defendant. An abdominal binder was used to protect the PEG tube. Despite the precaution, the patient was able to pull out the device.

The first physician then placed another telephone order for the insertion of a foley catheter. The legal complaint said the patient's fever spiked around the time he had an abdominal x-ray, several days before the doctor saw the patient. The physician ordered a dialysis catheter apparently without checking for abdominal problems.

The doctor learned the foley catheter was placed improperly. During a surgical procedure, an accumulation of tube feedings was discovered in the man's abdomen, leading to a patient transfer to Charleston Memorial's intensive care unit. The lawsuit claims negligence at the rehabilitation facility led to unfixable injuries, including irreversible kidney damage.

Physicians have duty to deliver high quality patient care. When that standard is not met, a doctor may be liable for medical professional negligence.

Source: The West Virginia Record, "Man accuses physicians of negligent care" Kyla Asbury, Jun. 17, 2014

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