BOSTON (June 8, 2012) – Pamela S. Gilman recently obtained a medical malpractice defense verdict on behalf of a physician assistant who allegedly failed to diagnose a superficial infection in a patient following his surgery for an ascending aortic dissection, resulting in the patient’s death.
Following his discharge from the hospital in August 2005, the man contacted his cardiothoracic surgeons complaining of drainage from his sternal incision, which an intake nurse noted contained pus. The physician assistant then thoroughly examined the patient, and determined that he had a superficial wound dehiscence (separation of skin) with no signs of any infection. A cardiothoracic surgeon, after conducting an independent examination of the patient, concurred with the physician assistant’s assessment.
The patient’s condition allegedly worsened over the next eight days. The lower part of his surgical incision opened, and exhibited increasing drainage and redness. He also developed a fever. Ultimately, the patient was diagnosed with an infection deep within his chest cavity. Despite multiple surgeries to drain the pus, the patient died after suffering a cardiac arrest as a result of significant hemorrhaging.
The man’s wife filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Massachusetts Superior Court against various medical professionals, including the physician assistant. The wife claimed that her husband had only a superficial infection when he was first seen by the physician assistant and that, because it was untreated, progressed into the chest cavity. The defense countered that the patient’s infection was seeded during the emergency surgery to repair the ascending aortic dissection, but did not manifest itself for a few weeks.
Following a two-week trial, the Bristol County jury deliberated for about six hours before rendering its verdict that the physician assistant was not liable for professional negligence related to her one-time examination of the decedent. The jury also determined that the other medical professionals in the case were not liable for medical malpractice.
“Despite the tragic outcome, I was confident that my client rendered good care, and am pleased that the jury found in her favor. She is a conscientious professional who conducted a thorough examination of the patient that was well documented. Nothing she did or didn’t do caused or contributed in any way to the decedent’s death,” said Gilman, who has tried and won over 50 cases in her career.
About Barton Gilman
Barton Gilman is one of New England’s leading civil litigation law firms with offices in Boston and Providence, including its active medical liability practice. Its experienced trial attorneys appear regularly in the federal and state courts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The Providence Business News has named the firm five consecutive years as one of Rhode Island’s Best Places to Work (2008–2012).