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  • Wrongful Death—Failure to Diagnose Heart Attack: Estate of Luedtke v. Crystal Lake Health Center et al.

Sommers Schwartz attorney Matthew Curtis filed a medical malpractice action against a physician’s assistant (PA), her supervising physician, and Crystal Lake Health Center, claiming that the defendants failed to timely diagnose and treat the decedent’s risk for a heart attack and thus prevent his subsequent death from an acute myocardial infarction.

The decedent, a 63-year-old married man, began experiencing chest tightness and shortness of breath on May 1, 2020. When the symptoms did not subside after three days, he contacted his physician, concerned he might be experiencing a heart attack consistent with a family history of heart disease and other conditions that put him at risk, including hypertension and high blood pressure, type II diabetes, obesity, and a social history of smoking and other tobacco use.

During a May 4, 2020, tele-visit with the defendant PA, the decedent complained of tightness in his chest, shortness of breath, and fatigue. The PA recommended he get tested for COVID-19 and undergo a cardiac etiology and stress test pending the COVID test results. The PA instructed the decedent and his wife to remain home under strict quarantine. Despite the serious nature of his symptoms, family history, and other conditions that put him at risk of a heart attack, the PA did not admit or send the decedent to the hospital or tell him to go directly to the emergency room.

On May 6, the decedent had another telemedicine appointment with the PA. Although his chest pain had improved, he still complained of shortness of breath and fatigue. The PA documented that she thoroughly assessed the chest and lungs, ordered chest x-rays and an exercise stress test, and scheduled a follow-up for the following week. Again, despite the decedent’s history and complaints, she did not admit him to the hospital or send him to the ER for an immediate cardiovascular work-up.

The decedent’s wife went to the couple’s cabin but became concerned after calling her husband repeatedly without an answer. She returned home to find him unresponsive on the shower floor. EMS and the medical examiner arrived and pronounced her husband dead; following an autopsy, the cause of death was listed as acute myocardial infarction and plaque rupture with coronary artery thrombosis in the previous 7 to 10 days.

The wrongful death lawsuit claimed the PA was professionally negligent in failing to recognize the need for immediate cardiac assessment and treatment based on the decedent’s symptoms and family history. The complaint also alleged the defendant physician breached the standard of care by failing to properly supervise the PA.

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