The Superior Court of Delaware issued a decision on February 17, 2014 in a Delaware case where it had been previously determined that the Delaware medical malpractice defendant physician and her physician’s assistant had altered their medical records for a four-day-old patient to make them more favorable to them, once the defendant physician became aware of the medical malpractice claim against her and her physician’s assistant (“PA”) that alleged that the PA negligently failed to treat and diagnose the baby for jaundice, which resulted in the baby developing Kernicterus that led to permanent brain damage.
The Underlying Facts
On July 21, 2006, the four-day-old child was brought by his parents to a medical practice owned by the defendant physician and staffed by the physician and her PA. The PA examined the baby and noted that he was jaundiced. The PA’s handwritten medical note for the visit stated that the baby was positive for “yellow tint face/abdomen.”
Late in the morning on July 23, 2006, the baby’s mother telephoned the PA to advise her about an increased yellow tint to both of the baby’s eyes and his skin. Later that day, the baby was brought to the hospital and later that same day, he was diagnosed with Kernicterus and suffered permanent brain and neurological damage as a result of the high bilirubin level and his jaundiced condition.
The plaintiffs alleged in their Delaware medical malpractice case that on the morning of July 24, 2006, the defendant physician advised her PA regarding the baby’s hospitalization and condition. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendant physician and her PA discussed the PA’s original office note, and sometime after that conversation, the PA removed the original note from the baby’s chart and then prepared a new, altered office note placed in the baby’s chart that stated that the baby’s yellow tint was limited to his face and sternum, rather than extending to his abdomen as the original note had stated.
When the PA left the defendant physician’s medical practice in September 2006, the PA took with her either a copy or the original of her original office note, a copy of the altered note, and a copy of a note that the defendant physician had made prior to the alteration of the medical record.
The defendant physician’s medical malpractice insurance company provided the defendant physician and the PA with separate attorneys to represent them in the plaintiffs’ Delaware medical malpractice lawsuit. The PA’s attorney was made aware of the altered medical records and provided the defendant physician’s attorney with a copy of the original office notes written by both the PA and the defendant physician – neither defense attorney advised the plaintiffs or their attorney regarding the original office notes that had been altered. However, both defense attorneys allegedly had advised the medical malpractice insurance company regarding the altered medical records.
The in-house attorney for the medical malpractice insurance company alleged that she thought that the original and the altered medical records had been provided to the Plaintiffs’ attorney (which was incorrect). Regardless, it was clear that the existence of the original office notes would have made the defense of the plaintiffs’ medical malpractice case more difficult.
The plaintiffs alleged that the attorneys for both medical malpractice defendants allowed their clients to perjure themselves during the medical malpractice litigation (the PA subsequently alleged that her original office note was merely a draft prepared before she was able to review and finalize the information with the defendant physician, and that the altered medical records were a result of a meeting she had with the defendant physician during which the defendant physician suggested that the PA change the term “abdomen” to “sternum” to reflect more accurately her observations during the examination of the baby on July 21, 2006).
If you or a loved one may have been seriously injured as a result of medical negligence in Delaware, you should promptly find a medical malpractice attorney in Delaware who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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