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Firm obtains $775K settlement in wrongful death med-mal case involving delayed diagnosis

The firm obtained a $775,000 settlement in a medical malpractice case involving a 57-year-old man who died following the delayed diagnosis of a perforated peptic ulcer.

In February 2015, the man was admitted to a Massachusetts hospital after complaining of a sudden onset of severe epigastric abdominal pain which woke him from sleep. The man gave a history that included heavy use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NAISDs) to treat chronic back pain.

At admission to the hospital, the man’s blood alcohol level was elevated. A chest X-ray taken in the emergency room did not show free air under his diaphragm. The emergency department hospitalist diagnosed acute pancreatitis resulting from alcohol use. The hospitalist ordered an abdominal ultrasound, which did not show any evidence of pancreatitis.

A second hospitalist, who examined the man the next day, also diagnosed pancreatitis secondary to alcohol use, despite the man not meeting the objective clinical criteria for pancreatitis. She failed to order a CT scan or other tests, or request a gastroenterology consultation, in order to rule out a more serious diagnosis such as a peptic ulcer, which can be caused by regular use of NSAIDs and alcohol.

On the third day of his admission, the man complained of a sore left shoulder, which he attributed to shoveling snow. However, the treating hospitalist failed to recognize the possibility that this was referred pain resulting from a perforated ulcer releasing air that irritated the man’s diaphragm, and also failed to order any additional tests or consultation to evaluate the man for a surgical emergency.

The man’s condition worsened necessitating surgery, which confirmed the presence of the ruptured ulcer on his small intestine, as well as five liters of turbid and foul-smelling fluid within the peritoneal cavity, indicating a subacute process. Sepsis had set in and the man passed away shortly after the surgery due to multi-organ failure.

Todd & Weld’s personal injury practice represents victims of medical negligence and other types of personal injury cases.  The goal of the practice is to improve the lives of individuals and families affected by others' negligent conduct and to help alleviate the devastating physical, emotional, and financial burdens they suffer.