A Virginia wrongful death case alleging medical malpractice was recently settled during trial by the attorneys of Pierce & Thornton. The facts of the case involve the death of a 46 year old mother of five. She underwent a laparoscopic supracervical hysterectomy (“LSH”), a procedure where the uterus is removed but the cervix is preserved, in October 2009. During the procedure, defendant gynecological surgeon caused a 5 mm perforation in the decedent’s small bowel, which went undetected.
While recovering in the post-anesthesia care unit (“PACU”), the patient had difficulty with deep breathing and abdominal pain that was characterized as “gas pains.” The nurses and on-call physician who examined her in the PACU before discharge reassured her that her complaints were normal and likely related to her abdomen having been insufflated with carbon dioxide during the procedure. On exam in the PACU, the patient was noted to have normal vital signs, no guarding, rebound tenderness or other peritoneal signs. The attending physician advised that she could be admitted overnight if she wished, but the patient opted to leave the hospital. The patient had arranged to recuperate in a local hotel rather than at home because she had young children and a second floor bedroom.
The decedent called the physician’s office at approximately noon the next day and told the triage nurse that she was having continued gas pain and “horrible hot flashes and extreme sweats.” After receiving this message, defendant sent an email back to his nurse advising her to tell the patient to stop taking her Microgestin and “to ride-out the hot flashes.”