Hospital held responsible for man’s wrongful death after fall

Patients can be at risk of suffering brain injuries in a number of ways when they are in a hospital to undergo surgery. One of the most common causes of brain injury is trauma which, unfortunately can be caused by medical malpractice, failure to ensure adequate care, or even preventable accidents, such as a fall.

In a recent wrongful death case against a hospital in Minnesota, a patient received a blow to a part of his head where his skull had been removed when he fell from an operating table just before surgery. The fall caused his condition to deteriorate rapidly. He slipped into a coma and died when he had to be removed from life support just a month after the accident.

The 61-year-old patient had suffered a stroke and had undergone several surgeries. Although a portion of his skull had been removed, his prognosis was good and he was scheduled for a final surgery to install a lumbar drain. After the lumbar surgery, he was to have been transferred to a nursing facility for rehabilitation.

The patient lay on the operating table, sedated, when he rolled off the table and struck his unprotected skull on the floor.

The hospital attempted to defend itself by claiming that the man had suffered a second stroke. However, he weighed 330 pounds, and the man’s family alleged in the wrongful death complaint that the hospital had operated on him even though they did not have an operating table wide enough, or with long enough restraints, to safely hold a patient that large.

Early last week, the judge in the wrongful death case ruled that the man’s death was the result of the hospital’s negligence. The jury followed by determining that the fall caused his death, not a second stroke. They awarded the man’s family $225,000 in compensation for his loss.

Here in Chicago and across the nation, healthcare providers are dealing with a rising number of overweight or obese patients, who often require different medical equipment than average people. That challenge, however, is no excuse for relying on ordinary equipment at the risk of a patient’s health or safety.

Source: Pioneer Press, “Court awards family of St. Paul hospital fall victim $225K,” Richard Chin, Nov.15, 2011

Wrongful Death


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