As I mentioned in my last email, we settled a medical malpractice claim for a family last fall where we alleged the failure to timely diagnose and treat our deceased client for a sepsis infection. This is particularly timely as you may have seen the sepsis billboard on Highway 40, heard sepsis awareness commercials on local radio stations or heard about the National Sepsis Awareness day (September 13). Sepsis strikes more than a million Americans each year and between 28 and 50 % die from it, including Mohammad Ali.
In her claim, we sued two emergency room physicians who failed to timely diagnose and treat sepsis in our client. Sepsis is a general term referring to infections. There are many signs of sepsis and its origination can vary widely. When sepsis is not timely diagnosed and treated, it can lead to cascading events that can bring on death quickly. The medical issues in our case were compounded by the fact that our client did not have a spleen. The spleen is such an important organ and is sometimes removed too quickly. The spleen filters blood and is a bacteria and infection fighting mechanism. People who are asplenic, have much more difficulty fighting infections.
As we usually do, we filed suit, took many depositions and aggressively litigated the case. We showed that our client should have been diagnosed and treated with antibiotics quicker. We mediated the case and obtained and settled this case for $1 million. Much of this was put into a structured settlement to benefit Lisa’s children.
The challenges in the case were that there was a real questions about whether even immediate treatment would have saved his life our whether, unbeknownst to everyone, he was going to pass from this infection. This was the Defendants position, and we took the contrary position that he walked into the ER (albeit with a high fever and shaking) and would have survived. That Defendants did not recognize enough to diagnose a more serious illness undercut their position that his demise was going to occur regardless.
Another interesting issue in the case was the changing standards by which sepsis is diagnosed and treated in hospitals. The hospitals now have specific sepsis protocols and specific documents that nurses and doctors must utilize when sepsis infection is suspected. This informs them as to whether septic shock or acute sepsis is occurring and gives protocols for the administration of antibiotics and identifying the source of the infection.
Sepsis can have different forms and different antibiotics and treatment regimens should be used to specifically treat that type of infection. The more exquisite and tailored an antibiotic is the quicker it will fight the sepsis infection. We are happy to get this really good result for the client and we were, frankly, happy that after our long litigation the Defendant stepped up and took responsibility for this.
We are also learned that this hospital and practitioners took what happened with our client seriously and had institutional changes that improved the medicine there to make sure that this did not happen to someone else. As much as Plaintiffs attorneys like me can sometimes be maligned, we really feel that we effected some change here.
One take away for everyone in this case treat infections seriously. Sometimes the symptoms of sepsis can be confusing to practitioners. Although you may think your elderly mother or grandmother may have the flu or some general cold this winter season, it could be sepsis infection masking as such. Be a vigilant advocate for your own and your family health and make sure that sepsis is in the differential diagnoses of the doctor before an undiagnosed infection goes awry.