A Malpractice Lawsuit From Treating COVID?

Last May, Emily Reardon, a 19-year-old college freshman and former high school varsity swimmer, was brought by her parents to the Riverside Methodist Hospital emergency department (ED) in Columbus, Ohio, with severe respiratory distress and low pulse-oximetry readings. She was treated by an emergency physician…medscape.com, How Likely Are Malpractice Lawsuits From Treating COVID? Harris Meyer, 2021

It looked like a case of COVID-19. But after testing negative three times for the virus, Reardon was sent home with her parents with a diagnosis of pneumonia and prescriptions for an antibiotic and acetaminophen. She returned 2 days later in respiratory distress with a dangerously low pulse-oximetry reading of 70%. She died 8 hours later.

Her death certificate listed the cause as acute respiratory distress syndrome, according to a medical malpractice lawsuit filed last June against the hospital, the emergency physician, and other ED staff in state court in Franklin County. The suit alleged failure to properly diagnose and treat Reardon’s symptoms and failure to adequately monitor her serious and rapidly declining condition, calling the care “negligent and/or reckless.“

The facts suggest that this is the kind of coronavirus-related negligence case that has physicians, hospitals, liability insurers, and malpractice defense attorneys on high alert.

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Kayur V. Patel, MD, MRO, FACP, FACPE, FACHE, FACEP
KayurVPatel@ExpertWitness.MD

40% of Interventional Radiology Lawsuits Are Nonmedical

That’s what Michigan Medicine and Emory University School of Medicine researchers found after scouring legal databases for IR-related U.S. federal and state lawsuits filed over a 35-year period. Medical malpractice suits accounted for 60% of filings, but the authors underscored that workplace allegations – such as employment, disability, and contract disputes – weren’t far behind, accounting for 40% of cases…healthimaging.com, 40% of interventional radiology lawsuits are nonmedical, with employment, disability the top disputes, Matt O’Connor. 2020

To reach their conclusions, the authors analyzed claims that moved beyond a trial court to an appellate court or involved nonroutine judicial opinions – known as complex litigation – between 1983 and 2018. Eighty-five such suits were included, with 51 (60%) involving medical malpractice. Vascular procedure allegations made up the largest chunk of medical suits.

The remaining lawsuits did not involve malpractice, but rather workplace issues, accounting for 34 cases (40%). Employment made up 61.8% of these allegations followed by disability disputes (11.8%), tax matters (8.8%), and contract disputes (5.9%), among others.

Branch et al. noted that IRs prevailed in 56.9% of medical malpractice cases, compared to 11.8% of workplace-related disputes.

Employment issues are common in medicine, with noncompete clauses growing more routine. But interventional rads must also navigate “pseudo-exclusive contracts,” in which those not employed by a large diagnostic-IR practice are prohibited from administering services that nonradiologist specialists – e.g., cardiologists and vascular surgeons – can perform, the authors noted.

Given that such specialists are performing a larger share of traditional interventional procedures, IRs should consult with a lawyer to better understand their situation before signing employment contracts. Interventional rads must also be savvy when shopping for disability insurance, the researchers noted.

“Our work, we believe, highlights how the intersection of law and medicine encompasses much more than just medical malpractice,” the authors noted. “For these reasons, interventional radiologists should engage experienced legal counsel to guide them in malpractice and non-malpractice legal matters alike, and additionally exercise due diligence in securing adequate and specialty-appropriate disability insurance.”

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Kayur V. Patel, MD, MRO, FACP, FACPE, FACHE, FACEP
KayurVPatel@ExpertWitness.MD