On March 28, 2014, after a three-week trial and 10 hours of jury deliberations over the course of two days, a Peoria, Illinois medical malpractice jury awarded $1.6 million to the surviving wife and children of a 48-year-old man who went to a hospital emergency department in September 2009 at which time his medical condition was not timely or appropriately treated, leading to his death. The medical malpractice defendants were the hospital where the allegedly negligent medical care was provided and one of the physicians involved with the man’s care.
The Underlying Facts
On September 6, 2009, the man went to the hospital where he was diagnosed with autoimmune hemolytic anemia. He was given only two units of blood and no medication, which the medical malpractice lawsuit alleged was insufficient to properly stabilize the man’s condition. He went into cardiac arrest on September 8, 2009 and died in the early morning.
After the jury’s verdict was announced, the defendants stated that they are investigating their options and that a determination has not yet been made as to how they may proceed.
What Is Immune Hemolytic Anemia?
Immune hemolytic anemia occurs when antibodies form against the body’s own red blood cells and destroy them because the immune system mistakenly recognizes these blood cells as foreign. When antibodies form against red blood cells for no reason, it is called idiopathic autoimmune hemolytic anemia. The antibodies may also be caused by complication of another disease, past blood transfusions, pregnancy (if the baby’s blood type is different from the mother’s), certain chemicals, drugs, and toxins, infections, or transfusion of blood from a donor with a blood type that does not match.
Initial symptoms may include feeling grumpy, feeling weak or tired more often than usual or with exercise, headaches, or problems concentrating or thinking. Worsening symptoms may include blue color to the whites of the eyes, brittle nails, light-headedness when you stand up, pale skin color, shortness of breath, or sore tongue. The disease may start quickly and be very serious, or it may remain mild and not need specific treatment.
Treatment usually begins with steroids, such as prednisone. If steroids do not improve the condition, treatment with intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) or removal of the spleen may be considered. If your immune system does not respond to steroids and splenectomy, you may receive treatment to suppress your immune system using medications such as azathioprine (Imuran), cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan), and rituximab (Rituxan). Blood transfusions are given with caution, because the blood may not be compatible and it may cause more red blood cell destruction.
If you, a family member, a loved one, or someone you know may have been injured or otherwise harmed by emergency room medical negligence or hospital malpractice, you should promptly seek the legal advice of a local medical malpractice attorney in your U.S. state who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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