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Rock Hill hospital settles second multi-million dollar suit

A surgical procedure, where the patient was anticipated to be discharged by dinner, ultimately led to the patient's death and a settlement of $2.2 million dollars for the patient's widower and estate. Rock Hill's Piedmont Medical Center, previously recognized for its cardiac care by South Carolina's BlueCross BlueShield, settled another medical malpractice lawsuit in March for $2.3 million.

Three years ago, a 68-year-old female patient entered the 288-bed hospital for a pacemaker implant procedure that was scheduled to last a few hours. The suit alleged that the hospital's medical staff and the hospital-affiliated cardiologist who performed the procedure did not take necessary precautions, including proper monitoring of the patient's oxygen levels, to prevent her wrongful death. The patient's oxygen levels fell to dangerously low levels and a breathing tube, intended to correct these levels, was improperly placed in her esophagus instead of her trachea according to the suit.

It was further alleged that the hospital staff falsely told the patient's family one day after her death that it was inevitable because of her respiratory problems. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendants also engaged in covering up the medical error and did not follow procedures because an autopsy was not ordered, it did not file an incident report with state health authorities and the surgeon falsely certified the patient's death certificate.

This hospital and a private surgical group surgeon settled another malpractice suit earlier this year for the installation of a leaking intestinal tube into a York County woman who was admitted into the hospital for treatment of a hiatal hernia in 2009. The suit alleged that that the patient developed sepsis, a blood infection, which may be caused by a leaking tube. The surgeon discovered that the tube was leaking a few days after its installation but improperly waited one day to fix the life-threatening problem, according to the suit. The medical bills for this procedure cost more than $1 million.

Settling or litigating cases involving surgical error or other malpractice is complex and often requires medical expertise. Plaintiffs have to prove that deviation from the standard of care led to the harm. Defendants may have different degrees and types of liability. Time periods also may limit when a legal malpractice action may commence.

Source: Charlotte Observer, "Rock Hill hospital settles second major malpractice case this year," Jie Jenny Zou, Aug. 7, 2013

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