Our personal injury attorneys want to call attention to a recent decision by the Supreme Court of Texas that presented a good news-bad news scenario for a plaintiff who alleged her husband died because of postmortem medical malpractice. While the court's ruling in the case might well open the door to medical malpractice claims for errors or omissions that occur after a patient has died within the state, the plaintiff in the wrongful death action ended up having her case barred by the statute of limitations.
In other words, our Florida medical malpractice attorneys note that the court's analysis was potentially beneficial to future plaintiffs, but the widow, in this case, might receive nothing for the harm suffered by her husband.
In the case of Christus Health v. Carswell, the husband of the plaintiff was admitted to the defendant hospital with complaints of severe pain. A doctor at the facility initially prescribed narcotics, but they were discontinued when the patient experienced an adverse reaction. However, a subsequent medical provider re-initiated the narcotics after the patients again complained of intense pain. The patient died a short time later.
Basis of the Medical Negligence Claim
The surviving spouse filed a lawsuit that was initially based on the facts above and requested that an autopsy be conducted. After the plaintiff was informed that the medical examiner denied her request, an autopsy subsequently was conducted by another medical provider. However, no toxicology screening was performed during this autopsy. The plaintiff amended her complaint in her medical malpractice case, alleging that the failure of the medical provider to conduct an autopsy eliminated her ability to determine whether an adverse drug reaction or overdose played a role in causing her husband's death.
The trial court declined to find that the claim based on post-mortem autopsy negligence was a medical malpractice claim, so the jury was allowed to hear the case. The medical provider contended on appeal to the state's highest court that the case fell within the auspices of medical malpractice. Given the court's determination that the case constituted medical negligence, the plaintiff's lawsuit was dismissed because the statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims in that state ran (expired) before the complaint was amended to add the negligent autopsy claim.
Although it is not clear whether a post-mortem negligence claim would constitute a basis for medical malpractice in Florida, negligent prescription or administration of medications can constitute medical malpractice. The prevalence of overdose deaths involving opioid narcotics and other medications makes it important for patients to be fully informed of the risks associated with prescription drugs. When patients are administered an unsafe dosage or potentially harmful side effects are not disclosed, this can provide a basis for a medical malpractice claim in Florida. A pharmacist can even be found negligent for failing to properly instruct patients about risks associated with a medication or dispensing an improper dosage.
Many people never pursue claims for medical malpractice even if they suspect a medical error or omission has occurred. However, medical mistakes in hospitals and other health care facilities constitute the third-leading cause of death in the U.S. according to a study conducted by researchers at John Hopkins University School of Medicine. Medical malpractice causes approximately 200,000-400,000 preventable deaths. Medication errors harm approximately 1.5 million people per year according to the Institute of Medicine.
If you have been injured by a negligent doctor, hospital, nurse, or other healthcare provider or facility, the Florida medical malpractice attorneys at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano offer the assistance you need to obtain the results you desire. With over 130 collective years of experience representing personal injury victims across South Florida, our firm provides legal representation of unmatched excellence. Contact our firm as soon as possible to start on the road to protecting your legal rights. Our firm received an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell and was ranked as a top firm in South Florida by the Miami Herald. Put our exceptional Florida personal injury attorneys to work on your case. Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or you can visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.