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Poorly coordinated care leads to wrongful death

People are dying inside U.S. hospitals -- but not just from the injuries and illnesses that brought them there and not from obvious causes, like a botched surgery or a bacterial infection. Instead, they're dying from something that's harder to define and harder still to fix: a systematic breakdown in communication and poorly coordinated care.

That's what the administrator of an estate is essentially alleging, brought about by the death of a Kanawha County man this past January.

The lawsuit, filed against his medical providers, alleges that the victim was admitted to the Charleston Area Medical Center for a carotid endarterectomy. The procedure, designed to prevent strokes, requires the surgeon to cut into the patient's neck and remove any excess plaque buildup from the carotid artery in order to restore normal blood flow to the brain. While the victim did well during and immediately after the surgery, he began complaining that he was having trouble breathing and that his throat was swelling up.

Ultimately, the lawsuit alleges, the swelling went undetected (and untreated) for approximately an hour, eventually leading to cardiac arrest and hypoxic brain injury. A hypoxic brain injury is caused by the brain not getting enough oxygen for any number of reasons -- in this case, the victim's own swollen throat. Symptoms of a hypoxic brain injury can range from mild, temporary conditions like dizziness and trouble thinking clearly to coma and, as in this case, death.

Given the nature of the victim's surgery and the fact that he was complaining of post-operative swelling in his throat, it's reasonable to suspect that there was a negligent breakdown in communication about his care somewhere down the line.

Negligence in a medical malpractice case means that the medical professionals involved failed to perform their jobs with a certain level of proficiency and meet an expected standard of care. While the details of the lawsuit are still unclear, it isn't unreasonable to suggest that the medical providers involved in the victim's care were negligent. Somebody should have responded to his complaint that he was having difficulty breathing right away -- not an hour or so later.

If you believe that someone you love was the victim of medical malpractice in the form of poorly coordinated or delayed care, contact an attorney for an evaluation of your case.

Source: West Virginia Record, "Estate administrator blames WVU, CAMC for family member's death," Philip Gonzales, Dec. 01, 2016

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