Can Post-Mortem Misconduct be Considered Medical Malpractice?

When you go to see a doctor, you expect to receive a diagnosis and a treatment plan that you can trust. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. In fact, medical malpractice is common in Florida and throughout the United States. Medical malpractice takes place when a patient is injured due to a medical professional’s failure to exercise reasonable care. Put another way, medical malpractice may have occurred if your injury took place because a health care professional failed to act as a reasonably prudent medical professional in the same specialty would have acted under those circumstances. This is clearly outlined in the law. But not all potential medical malpractice cases can be neatly analyzed under this rule. What happens when misconduct takes place after a person has died?

This was the question addressed by the Texas Supreme Court in Christus Health v. Carswell. In that case, the plaintiff’s husband was admitted to the defendant hospital with issues regarding pain. A physician at the hospital initially prescribed narcotics, which were stopped when the patient had an adverse reaction to the medication. A subsequent health care provider once again gave the patient the same medication, due to the fact that the patient was complaining about severe pain. Shortly afterward, the patient died.

Based on these facts, the plaintiff filed a medical malpractice claim and asked for an autopsy to be conducted. She was told that her request was denied. However, some time later, an autopsy was done, but it failed to include a toxicology screening. The plaintiff claimed that this failure left her with no answers as to whether or not her husband died from a drug overdose or whether the adverse reaction he had to the narcotics was a contributing factor in his death. She amended her complaint to reflect these facts.

The jury found no malpractice in how the patient was treated but found in favor of the plaintiff on the claim that the hospital improperly got permission for the autopsy. The jury agreed with the plaintiff that this was a health care liability claim. However, since these claims were not added until more than two years after the patient’s death, the Court determined that the claims were barred by the two-year Texas statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases. The Court explained that these new claims regarding the autopsy did not relate back to the original lawsuit because they were based on completely separate and distinct events. As a result, the plaintiff could not seek any compensation for any misconduct on the part of the medical professionals.

In Florida, causing a patient’s death by giving them medication to which they are known to have had an adverse reaction would be considered malpractice. However, this case sheds light on the fact that there may be cases in which we cannot determine right away whether the misconduct would fall into the scope of medical malpractice.

This case highlights that personal injury lawyers cannot just be vigilant about the facts of your case but must also be extremely attentive to timelines. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, our Miami medical malpractice attorneys have the skill, dedication, and experience to handle your claims. You can rest assured that we will make every effort to resolve your case as efficiently and effectively as possible. For more information, do not hesitate to call us at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) or contact us online today.

More Blog Posts:

Wrongful Death Claim Permitted After Personal Injury Case Based on Same Conduct Resolved, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg, September 23, 2016

Mold Injuries in Florida, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg, September 23, 2016

Drone-Related Injuries in Florida, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg, September 23, 2016

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