Doctors are indeed human, and sometimes make mistakes. Once in a while, these mistakes sadly are fatal. While medical malpractice lawsuits happen regularly, a few are nearly inconceivable. You may need a tissue to make it through this tear-jerking list.
5 Pregnancy Confusion
Shiketa Walker went to Baptist Beaumont Hospital in Texas in 2002 on a Friday evening after experiencing vaginal bleeding. The nurse didn’t pick up any fetal heartbeats and contacted Dr. William N. Hawkins, an on-call OB-GYN, who ordered an ultrasound. It showed no signs of pregnancy and Walker was discharged. By Sunday, Walker was back in the emergency room with severe abdominal pains. A pregnancy test ordered Dr. Stephen Kastl showed that Walker was pregnant. Walker’s stomach cramps decreased and she was once again discharged. By Monday she was dead. Her stomach pains had been caused by an ectopic pregnancy that ruptured. The ultrasound didn’t get a picture of Walker’s fallopian tubes, and no one saw the growing baby. The jury found Hawkins 40 percent at fault and Kastl 60 percent at fault. Walker’s parents received nearly $2.4 million in the suit.
4 More Than Back Pain
Karen Santorum, wife of former presidential candidate Rick Santorum, went in for a spinal alignment in 1996 in Virginia. She claimed that Dr. David Dolberg did a poor adjustment, which resulted in a herniated disc in her back. Between her severe pain and suffering, multiple doctors’ appointments and emotional damage, she sued Dr. Dolberg for $500,000, even though her medical builds totaled just $18,800. The jury decided to award Santorum $350,000, and the judge only gave her half of that amount. Rick Santorum’s political platform advocated a cap of just $250,000 on malpractice suits.
3 Spongy Negligence
In 2005, Geraldine Nicholson of North Carolina went in for colon cancer surgery with Dr. Arleen Kayne Thom. Ten weeks after her surgery, doctors discovered that a surgical sponge, which was 18 by 18 inches, was left behind in her abdomen. Because of the sponge, she had severe complications and infections and wasn’t able to receive necessary radiation treatments. She died in 2006 after spending about a year in the hospital. The jury awarded $5 million to be paid to Nicholson’s estate and another $750,000 to her husband, who was supporting three children. Thom no longer practices medicine.
2 Problem Kidney Transplant
Vincent Liew was on the list to receive a brand new kidney after spending four years on dialysis. His need was granted in early 2002, and Liew went under the knife at NYU’s Langone Medical Center, thanks to a woman who died suddenly from a stroke. But six weeks after the woman’s death, her autopsy results showed that she had uterine cancer that had been undetected. Physicians warned Liew of her diagnosis, and told him his chances of getting cancer were very slim—uterine cancer only affects women. Six months after the transplant, Liew decided to have the kidney removed, and then died the following month from an immune system cancer reportedly tied to the transplant. Liew’s widow sued for $3 million in damages, but the jury found in favor of the hospital.
1 Three-Way Fatality
In 2009 in a small Georgia town, 31-year-old William Martinez went in to see his cardiologist, Dr. Sreenivasulu Gangasani. Martinez complained of numerous episodes of chest pain that went down his arm. Dr. Gangasani warned Martinez that he had a high risk of clogged arteries and ordered a stress test for the next week. But Gangasani never told Martinez to lay low on any physical activity until after they get to the root of the problem. The day before Martinez’s scheduled stress test, he had a rendezvous in the bedroom with a man and a woman. Martinez never made it out of that three-way alive—his heart gave out. His family sued and was awarded $3 million in damages.