Family of woman killed by heart catheter error awarded $10.8M

Imagine losing your spouse to a medical mistake when she is still in her 30s, leaving you to raise three young children. That is the tragic situation one man is in. His wife died in 2011 after a botched catheterization damaged an artery in her heart. The jury in the resulting medical malpractice case against the hospital where the victim died recently awarded her family more than $10.8 million in damages.

Following trial, which ended late in August, jurors voted 11-1 that the woman’s family had suffered damages of $10,831,155 due to the catheterization and doctors’ subsequent delays in recognizing and treating the critical mistake. The hospital, while claiming “sympathy” for the family, has vowed to fight the verdict through motions and an appeal.

The woman had a “very, very mild history of heart issues” when she went to the doctor for treatment of her bronchitis, an attorney for the husband said. The doctor found signs of heart trouble and the patient underwent a heart catheterization at the defendant hospital. But during the procedure, the tip of the catheter damaged the inner lining of an artery. This is called “dissection.” The lining collapsed, cutting off a significant amount of blood flow to the heart.

Despite the woman’s distress, more than half an hour went by before she was taken to surgery. Somehow, the process of delivering her to surgery took an additional 50 minutes or so, by which point she was nearly dead. She later passed away.

The verdict is believed to be one of the largest ever awarded for medical malpractice in the metro area where the case was heard. If so, it may have reflected the jury’s recognition of the victim’s lost future earnings. She was only 34. If she worked, she likely would have continued to do so for several decades.

The verdict may also include damages for pain and suffering. The woman is survived by her husband and three children, ages 5, 9, and 11. All of them lost a close family member and will be forever deprived of her love and companionship, due to medical negligence.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “St. Louis County jury awards $10.8 million medical negligence verdict,” Jim Doyle, Aug. 30, 2013

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