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Did a Doctor's Failure to Test Lead to a Patient's Death?

The family of this 71 year old client contacted our offices to discuss the following potential Kentucky medical malpractice case. The patient presented with a medical complaint of “right lower leg pain, swelling, heat”. The physician diagnosed a small superficial thrombosis inferior to the patient’s right calf. The doctor suggested warm compresses for 2 hours, 3 times a day and 2 aspirin every 4 hours. The doctor also suggested knee-high stockings. The doctor did not order any blood tests, ultrasound or other radiologic testing. Within five days, the patient’s leg was throbbing, was sore to the touch, swollen and hot. A phone call to the doctor resulted in comforting confirmation that the treatment was correct. The doctor advised to take “a lot” of aspirin, remain laying down as much of the time as possible, and again, to use warm, moist compresses 2 hours at a time, 3 or 4 times per day. The doctor approved the patient getting up and down to go to the bathroom, cook, walk the dog, etc. At an office appointment a week later the patient continued to have pain in her leg and was told to continue on the same plan. There was no mention of any blood test, ultrasound or other evaluation. The doctor advised the patient that this was not a deep vein clot and was not of significant concern. In a week the patient was found deceased on the floor of her kitchen. Her death certificate explained that she had a “probable pulmonary embolism”. Unfortunately, the family did not have an autopsy performed. For this reason, the case was not accepted for litigation. In many instances it is difficult to successfully pursue a claim for wrongful death if there is no autopsy.
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