Medical Malpractice occurs on a daily basis. When it happens in a hospital setting, it can be difficult to figure out who was responsible. There are two to three nursing shifts every day, attending physicians, consulting physicians, physician assistants, and resident physicians.
Take this case, for example: Our client went to the emergency department with a broken leg. The emergency department physician evaluated her and admitted her — not for the broken leg, but for the dizziness that caused her to fall in the first place. Then began the extensive workup and multiple consults (physician examinations from different specialists). On day one, the broken leg was placed into a removable walking boot for the next three weeks – a simple break that needed some stability. No orders were written about that boot, (but remember, it was a removable boot). Throughout the next five days in the hospital, the patient saw several different consulting physicians for an extensive workup to uncover why she became dizzy and fell. The patient also had 24 hour nursing care. On a daily basis, the patient saw several different doctors who reviewed and assessed different test results, the patient’s clinical presentation, and radiology/laboratory findings. As each physician or nurse assessed this patient, s/he was advised of the extreme pain experienced by the patient. Each physician reviewed and agreed with the existing pain medication order or orders more/stronger pain medication – and with the medication, the patient’s pain subsides temporarily. But by day five, the pain was excruciating. Someone finally took off that removable walking boot…only to discover that the “simple broken leg” is gangrenous. The end result: a below the knee amputation.
So, who was responsible for the treatment and care of this patient?