This claim involved the death of a 39-year-old male, survived by a sole beneficiary, his wife. He presented to the defendant gastroenterologist with a history of morbid obesity, a reported weight loss of 80 pounds in less than three months, in addition to abdominal pain, constipation, vomiting and nausea. Upon presentation, plaintiff’s decedent had been unable to consume solid food for days and had not had a bowel movement in over a week. Previously, the decedent had blood tests done that were not disclosed to defendant gastroenterologist, but decedent did not have a primary care physician and had no known baseline laboratory values.
The parties disputed whether defendant gastroenterologist ordered any imaging or laboratory studies, and decedent was scheduled for an esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD), which revealed bilious fluids in the stomach. The parties disputed whether the EGD results showed gastroparesis. The defendant then ordered the first of three consecutive colonoscopies. The first procedure was unsuccessful due to fecal blockage. Two consecutive colonoscopies, with required bowel preparation, were conducted by the defendant over the following two days. The first one failed again due to blockage, and the second procedure was reported as successful.
Following the third colonoscopy, recovery vital signs indicated that the decedent continued to be tachycardic, despite oxygen administered at four liters per minute. The decedent had an extremely low body temperature and reported severe fatigue. The parties disputed whether defendant failed to properly investigate decedent’s status and symptoms, but decedent was discharged from the hospital.
Plaintiff’s decedent was re-admitted to the emergency room approximately four hours later and diagnosed with ketoacidosis, electrolyte depletion and a grossly elevated glucose value. He coded and was pulseless for 15 minutes, before he was resuscitated.
He was determined to be brain dead, and life support was withdrawn. Plaintiff’s experts would have testified that his presenting symptoms demanded testing to determine whether underlying diabetes was the cause of his gastroparesis. Simple laboratory studies would have demonstrated that the decedent had adult onset diabetes. This diagnosis would have resulted in an entirely different course of treatment and care. The experts also would have criticized the defendant for repeatedly failing to check the decedent’s glucose levels, for failing to admit him following the third procedure and for predictable electrolyte depletion with three colonoscopy bowel preparations in the course of three days.
Type of action: Medical malpractice
Injuries alleged: Wrongful death
Resolved before: Mediation
Mediator: Rosemarie Annunziata
Date: Dec. 10, 2012
Attorneys for plaintiff: Lewis T. Stoneburner and Bellamy Stoneburner, Richmond