Failure to Treat Sores Leading to Leg Amputation - $1.5 Million Settlement
A lawsuit was filed on behalf of a client who developed ulcers on her leg while recuperating in bed after a spinal surgery. Although ulcers and bed sores are not uncommon when a person is unable to move for long periods of time and medical personnel fail to take proper steps to shift the patient in bed, the medical malpractice in this case was also due to what happened after the occurrence of the ulcers. The lawsuit was brought against both the primary care doctor and the nursing home for their failure to treat the leg ulcers and intervene in a timely fashion.
The lawsuit alleged that although the ulcers could likely have been treated properly if caught early, the failure led to a complete infection, gangrene and the subsequent loss of her leg. The case proceeded to trial in an effort to secure the maximum recovery on behalf of this brave woman, but just before closing arguments were given, the attorneys for the medical providers finally agreed to a proper settlement which the client agreed to accept in the amount of $1,500,000.00.
About Bed Sore Malpractice
People are admitted to hospitals and nursing homes for any number of conditions and illnesses. While there, the medical staff usually concentrates on diagnosing and treating the particular condition that brought the patient in to them. Although this focus makes sense, the staff must never lose sight of the fact that new, and potentially more dangerous, events may complicate the patient’s stay. Of these possible complications, one of the most serious is a bed sore, also known as a pressure ulcer or a decubitus ulcer.
If a patient is mobile and is able to easily turn in bed, sit up, walk to the bathroom, etc., it is unlikely that such a sore will occur. That is because the condition is generally caused by a lack of movement. An immobile patient who stays in bed and is not turned or moved by a nurse will experience pressure on certain parts of the body, often the heels, ankles, hips, tailbone, buttocks or head. This pressure, especially in boney areas, will result in loss of blood flow, which is required to carry needed oxygen to that part of the body. With compromised circulation comes the eventual death of the skin and then of the tissue beneath. If left untreated, bone will then become exposed. When any skin or tissue dies in this way, it is referred to as a bed sore and can be categorized in 3 stages:
- Stage 1: In this beginning stage, the skin may appear red or discolored and although it may be tender, it is not yet broken. When pressure to the site is taken away, the discoloration still remains.
- Stage 2: In this secondary stage, the skin is now broken and a there may be some drainage of pus or fluids. The broken top layer of skin creates a shallow sore at this stage.
- Stage 3: Similar to the 2nd stage, this is still an open wound, but now it extends to lower levels of skin and is considerably deeper than before. It now has reached fatty tissues and drainage is still present.
- Stage 4: In this final stage of a pressure ulcer, the breakdown of the body’s tissues is deeper yet, reaching down as far as the patient’s muscle or even to the bone. If emergency treatment and surgery is not undertaken at this point, this condition may become fatal.
Who is Responsible?
These types of ulcers are not the fault of the patient, nor are they fault of the patient’s family. The responsibility rests squarely on the shoulders of the nurses and medical staff entrusted with the well-being of the person. It takes little time out the day to reposition the patient. So whether in a hospital or a nursing home setting, a failure to help an immobile patient avoid pressure ulcers is negligent at best, and may otherwise be considered to be abuse or neglect. If you believe that your loved one has suffered as a result of medical negligence, contact Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC for free information at 800-996-4824.