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