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Pennsylvania court holds the line on medical malpractice verdict

Nobody wants to go through the experience of being hospitalized for a serious medical condition. However, patients might feel comforted by the knowledge that medical staff is on hand to provide care as needed. The unfortunate reality is that medical institutions don't always provide the level of care people come to expect.

A 24-year-old man's family has spent nearly a decade dealing with the effects of a fatal medical error. In 2003, the man was brought to a hospital in Pennsylvania to receive treatment for what appeared to be a brain abscess or tumor. What happened next raises questions about the institution’s process to handle dire medical situations.

The night before the man was set to undergo an operation, a nurse noted that his pupils were dilated. This signaled that the man was experiencing life-threatening brain pressure, which required emergency surgery. As a result, the nurse called the neurosurgeon, but no action was taken. Additionally, the nurse failed to report the medical emergency up the proper chain of command for immediate response.

After bringing a wrongful death claim forward and receiving a positive verdict for damages, including lost wages, the hospital appealed the claim all the way to Pennsylvania Superior Court. Thankfully, the superior court judges ruled in favor of the man's family. Although this was a welcome verdict, the family was forced to deal with years of appeals.

Hospitals may go to great lengths to avoid being held responsible in medical malpractice cases. For victims or their relatives, this can be very frustrating. The important thing to remember is that there are legal resources available to help victims pursue the verdict they deserve.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Court upholds $14.2 million judgment against UPMC," Nov. 4, 2013

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