When I first met her, she could not hold back the tears. She was a 31-year-old widow, having lost her husband to pneumonia. Sadly, he had lost his last chance to be treated for the infection in his lungs, due to the medical malpractice of the staff of a walk-in clinic. The young couple had just completed their honeymoon when he began to suffer from a high fever and a severe cough. After three days of trying to use over-the-counter medicines to treat these symptoms, she finally insisted that her husband goes to a walk-in clinic.
At the walk-in clinic, the husband was seen by a medical assistant and a physician’s assistant. He was never evaluated by a doctor. The medical assistant did not measure her patient’s blood oxygen level. The physician’s assistant did not get the history of three days of elevated temperature (as high as 104 degrees). After his examination, the physician’s assistant diagnosed the husband with bronchitis and sent him home.
By the next morning, the husband was so sick from pneumonia in his lungs that he went to the emergency room of the nearest hospital. There, the doctors immediately diagnosed him with severe pneumonia. The husband’s condition rapidly deteriorated; he suffered a cardiac arrest and had to be intubated. He remained on a ventilator in the intensive care unit for two weeks until his family finally made the agonizing decision to withdraw all life support efforts. He was 39 years old. The young couple had only been married for a month when my client lost her husband.
The walk-in clinic didn’t take the case seriously because the marriage was of such short duration. We were forced to file a lawsuit to hold the walk-in clinic accountable for this unnecessary death. We had to hire experts in the areas of primary care, pulmonology, and economics. After taking the depositions of all of these experts, the walk-in clinic finally agreed to settle the case for a confidential amount. The money wouldn’t bring him back, but it was the only currency to bring justice for the devastating loss suffered by a young widow who lost the love of her life.