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  • ER Malpractice—Failure to Diagnose and Treat Cardiovascular Disease Leading to Fatal Cardiac Arrhythmia: Jenkins v. Ascension

Sommers Schwartz attorney Andy Dragovic filed a wrongful death lawsuit for the estate of a 38-year-old woman who died of cardiac arrhythmia due to an emergency room doctor’s failure to diagnose and treat her cardiovascular disease.

The woman presented to the defendant’s ER complaining of a rapid heartbeat and chest pain rated 5 on a 10 scale. The defendant ER physician ordered stat chest x-rays, an EKG, and basic labs. The EKG revealed sinus tachycardia without ST-segment elevations and depressions. The patient was given IV fluids and re-evaluated, at which time her symptoms had apparently resolved. The doctor diagnosed the patient with heart palpitations and discharged her with no further cardiac workup or monitoring. She was instructed to follow up with her primary care provider.

The next morning, the patient’s brother found her unresponsive. Ambulance, police, and medical examiners arrived, but she was pronounced dead on the scene. An autopsy revealed severe three-vessel coronary artery disease, and the coroner determined the cause of death to be hypertensive and arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease that caused cardiac arrest and sudden death. The severe cardiovascular disease likely caused ischemia to the heart and subsequent irregular heart rhythm and fatal arrhythmia. 

According to the allegations, the standard of care required the defendant physician to take an accurate and thorough history, admit the patient for monitoring, order an appropriate cardiac workup, make appropriate referrals to cardiac specialists, and rule out a cardiac cause of the patient’s chest pain before discharge. Instead, the defendant failed to investigate a cardiac cause of the patient’s symptoms and discharged her without providing a proper diagnosis or treatment. Had the defendant exercised the reasonable care and diligence required of emergency medical physicians, the woman’s tragic and premature death would have been prevented.

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