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  • Emergency Room Malpractice – Failure to Timely Diagnose and Treat Surgical Abdomen Leads to 45-Year-Old Woman’s Death: Moore v. Raycraft

Sommers Schwartz attorneys Judith Susskind and Dina Zalewski filed a medical malpractice lawsuit for the estate of a 45-year-old woman who died of multi-organ failure and brain damage due to the failure to timely diagnose and treat her surgical abdomen. She kept coming back to the hospital with signs and symptoms of an intestinal blockage. She did not get the surgical treatment that she needed, which caused a sigmoid colon perforation to leak massive amounts of foul material into her abdomen, leading to her wrongful death.

The decedent initially presented to the defendant hospital’s emergency department complaining that she had not had a bowel movement for five days, which caused nausea, vomiting, and lower abdominal pain. She was given a CT scan and enemas and was discharged. She continued to suffer severe constipation despite taking medications. 

Four days later, the decedent returned to the ER in a wheelchair, complaining of worsening symptoms, including increased nausea and pain. She still had not had a bowel movement. A second CT scan was ordered, which showed a large stool burden in the sigmoid and descending colon and a “worrisome” increase in fluid. She was prescribed medications for nausea and pain and discharged again.

Five days later, the decedent returned to the emergency department with a distended colon, increased abdominal pain, continued nausea and vomiting, anal mucus drainage, uncontrolled blood sugars, and high blood pressure. A third CT scan revealed findings consistent with a surgical abdomen. Unfortunately, a general surgeon was not consulted.

The decedent was admitted to the hospital and treated with multiple laxatives and enemas, to no avail. She began to experience signs and symptoms of sepsis and septic shock, including decreased blood pressure, tachycardia, increase white blood cell count, fever, and signs and symptoms of organ failure. Over the next several days, her blood pressure continued to drop, she had trouble breathing, and she showed symptoms of hypotension, renal failure, and acidemia. The patient was intubated and noted to be at severe risk of bowel perforation. A general surgeon was not consulted.

It was only after the CT scan revealed clear evidence of a bowel perforation that surgery was finally performed. By this time, her condition was critical. The patient suffered multi-organ failure, including severe and permanent brain damage. As there was no hope for a recovery, and she remained unresponsive, a decision was made to provide comfort measures only.

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants were professionally negligent for the failure to timely order a surgical consult, and to timely and properly treat her medical issues. Had the defendants met the standard of care, the decedent would have received the life-saving surgery in a timely manner, and she would likely have made a full recovery.

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