December 3, 2011

Earlier this year, a Las Vegas, New Mexico jury awarded a substantial sum to the estate of a disabled man who suffered painful bed sores that allegedly developed and were not properly treated due to medical malpractice. There was also a claim that the man’s medical records were falsified by his medical providers.

What Happened?

The man was in his mid-50s when he went to a New Mexico hospital for hip surgery after fracturing his hip as a result of a fall (the man had an eighth-grade education and had suffered significant cognitive impairments as a result of brain surgery in 1988, which resulted in the man being unable to live by himself and requiring him to move in with his brother). He spent a week in the hospital before he was transported to a nursing home for one week. He was then transferred back to the hospital for an additional two weeks.

The medical malpractice lawsuit alleged that the hospital failed to follow its own procedures and policies to screen and protect against pressure ulcers (bed sores), which led  to the man developing serious bed sores on his heels and one on his hip. The bed sores did not resolve for fourteen months. The medical malpractice claim also alleged that the man suffered from malnourishment while he was an inpatient. The defendants included a nursing home that settled the medical malpractice claims against it before the trial.

The medical malpractice trial lasted a week and the jury deliberated for two half-days before rendering its verdict for both compensatory damages and punitive damages against the hospital. Unfortunately, the man died from unrelated causes before his medical malpractice case was determined by the jury (the bed sores did not subside until shortly before his death).


How Did This Happen?

Most bed sores (also referred to as pressure ulcers) are avoidable with proper screening and preventative methods such as the use of air mattresses, turning and repositioning patients often enough, and using special devices to relieve pressure on the points of the body most susceptible to pressure, such as the heels, the hips, the sacrum, the buttocks, and the back of the head.

Medical malpractice claims involving pressure ulcers are often based on the health care facility’s alleged failure to timely and properly determine the patient’s risk for developing pressure ulcers, the failure to timely and properly implement strategies to avoid the development of pressure ulcers, the failure to timely diagnose skin break down leading to pressure ulcers, and/or the failure to timely and appropriately treat pressure ulcers when they develop.

It is common for medical malpractice claims involving pressure ulcers to allege that the health care facility failed to have sufficient staff, and/or properly trained staff, to avoid the development of pressure ulcers, and/or that the staff failed to follow established protocols in treating patients who are identified as being at risk for developing pressure ulcers.

What Should You Do If Pressure Ulcers Occur?

As stated above, most incidents of pressure ulcer development are avoidable if proper steps are taken at the proper time. And if pressure ulcers are observed and properly treated soon enough, much of the pain and debilitating effects of pressure ulcers may be avoided.

If you or a loved one have developed pressure ulcers (bedsores) during a hospitalization or stay in a nursing home or other medical facility, you should contact a medical malpractice lawyer to investigate if you have a claim for medical malpractice.

Visit our website to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your state who may be able to assist you with a medical malpractice claim or call us toll free at 800-295-3959.

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