Plaintiff’s decedent died on Feb. 1, 2012, days after what should have been a routine medical procedure to implant an intrathecal pain pump, which is a medical device used to deliver pain medications directly to a patient’s spinal fluid. The procedure called for the defendant to tunnel subcutaneously between the pump placed into the patient’s abdomen and a catheter placed into her spine.
The defendant, however, tunneled too deeply, entered the decedent’s peritoneal cavity and speared through a loop of bowel. As a result, instead of recovering from the procedure, Plaintiff’s decedent became septic and died six days after the procedure.
Plaintiff’s experts were very experienced in placing similar pain pumps. They would have testified that the standard of care requires a physician to guide the tunneling device continuously and to be aware of the location of the tip relative to the patient’s anatomy at all times. In their opinion, the defendant was negligent when he failed to sufficiently monitor the location of the tunneling device and entered the peritoneal cavity. They would have further opined that damage to the bowel did not constitute a bad result or an accepted risk of the procedure.
Plaintiff’s decedent had just turned 50 years old when she died. Her statutory beneficiaries were her husband, whom she had married the year before, and her two adult sons. At the time of her death, plaintiff’s decedent was on permanent disability from her job as a 911 dispatcher due to a back injury, and she hoped that the procedure at issue would enable her to live without pain and to return to work.
Type of action: Medical malpractice – wrongful death
Injuries alleged: Bowel perforation leading to septic shock, multi-organ failure, systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) and eventual death
Date resolved: Jan. 29, 2013
Special damages: $286,897.55 – cost of the pain pump implantation procedure, bills incurred in attempting to treat the complications and funeral expenses
Verdict or settlement: Settlement
Attorneys for plaintiff: M. Bryan Slaughter, Charlottesville; D. Brock Green, Charlottesville
Plaintiff’s experts: Edgar L. Ross, M.D., pain management, Boston; James M. North, M.D., pain management, Winston-Salem, N.C.