April 17, 2013

162017_132140396847214_292624_nWe recently received a telephone call from a woman whose husband died from medical malpractice in Maryland. She told us about her husband’s medical condition that was not diagnosed in time despite what appeared to be clear symptoms of a serious and deadly condition that led to his painful and unnecessary death only a few months after a subsequent medical provider properly diagnosed him and attempted life-saving medical treatment. Her husband died earlier this year, leaving behind his grieving widow and three children, two of whom are adults and live away from the family home and one in his mid-teens who lives at home.

While we were able to find her a highly competent and very experienced medical malpractice lawyer in Maryland who agreed to investigate the circumstances of her husband’s medical care to determine if medical negligence was the cause of his untimely death, we have been unable to stop thinking about the woman’s description of how the loss of her husband has affected her son who still lives at home.

Before her husband became sick, he was a very hands-on father: he had coached his son’s little league baseball team, he took his son on weekend camping trips, and he helped his son with his math homework every night (the father was a highly-regarded civil engineer who worked his way up to regional manager of the local office of a national company that had employed him since before his oldest child was born). The son’s siblings had enjoyed a similar upbringing and closeness to their father but the teenage boy was especially close to his father and his father was especially close with his youngest son.

The father’s illness was sudden and became debilitating quickly. Doctors’ appointments and hospitalizations lasting several days to a week or more began to erode the daily time and guidance that the father was able to provide to his son. Although his parents attempted to shield him from his father’s difficulties, the teenager knew instinctively that his family’s life was changing and he missed not having his father with him at home every day.

As his father’s medical condition and strength declined and his mother needed to spend more time tending to his father’s needs, the boy was silently being consumed by the uncertainty and the fear that resulted from his father being unable to continue to work full time and provide for the family’s financial well-being (his mother worked outside of the home but his father was the primary source of income for the family). All of a sudden it seemed that money for things that seemed routine, like going out for dinner at the family’s favorite restaurant on Friday evenings, was unavailable and the family’s lifestyle changed – not in a catastrophic sense but in the little things that comforted the teenager and gave his life a sense of normalcy.

As his father’s physical condition continued to deteriorate, the teenager slowly but insidiously became withdrawn from the rest of his family and from his friends that he had known his entire life. While his mother and his siblings compassionately tried to shield him from their own fears concerning the family’s patriarch, he knew that his family was in crisis and he felt that he had no one he could talk to about his feelings – he internalized his own emotional trauma caused by his father’s failing health.

When his father’s serious medical condition was finally diagnosed, his family tried to hide the dire prognosis from him but he overheard them on more than one occasion crying uncontrollably when discussing his father’s future. He never discussed his own concerns and fears with his family because he did not have the emotional maturity to seek out the help he needed – he did not even realize how much he was being affected by his father’s ordeal.

There was no way the family could prepare the teenager for his father’s pending death so they decided to avoid the subject with him altogether and to continue to provide the boy with reassuring but misguided promises that “everything will be all right.”

The boy’s father died after a particularly long hospital stay during which the father was given high doses of pain medications to dull his unrelenting pain, with the side-effect being that his father was “asleep” and unable to communicate much of the time. Despite his desire to visit his father in the hospital, the boy had acquiesced in his family’s decision for him to not visit his father in the hospital during his father’s last days of life because they wanted the boy to remember his father the way he was and not by the ashen shell that lay in his hospital bed. The boy did not protest even though he wanted – he needed – to be with his father because he feared seeing his father’s shriveled body and sunken face that he overheard his family lamenting when they thought that he could not hear them.

The father’s death was not a surprise to the rest of the family but the boy was in disbelief and was devastated. He cried without pause during the entire funeral and he remained behind the closed door to his bedroom at home, with the light turned off and his computer shut down, for almost a week.

It has been a few months since his father’s death and he has returned to school, but he has withdrawn from all activities that he used to enjoy and he receives counseling twice a week. He has not smiled since his father’s death and he speaks few words and in a monotone voice, and only when he is spoken to. He rarely makes eye contact with anyone and he never initiates human contact (he and his father used to shoot hoops in the driveway almost every evening before his father got sick, and he used to hug and kiss his mother and father goodnight every night before bedtime, even as a teenager). He has lost interest in all sports and in his friends (his friends tried to visit him shortly after his father’s death and they tried to engage him in their activities but they soon gave up their efforts when it was clear that their friend was not ready).

The medical malpractice case against the medical provider who negligently failed to timely and appropriately diagnose the father’s medical condition when there was still time to successfully treat his condition and save his life will necessarily focus on the medical malpractice committed by the negligent physician, and most of the evidence and testimony during the medical malpractice trial will be provided by the many medical experts hired by the medical malpractice plaintiff and the medical malpractice defendant. Nonetheless, we hope that the medical malpractice jury will not fail to compassionately re-focus its attention at the appropriate time on the invisible victim in this medical malpractice case – the father’s son.

If you or a family member may be the victim of medical malpractice in Maryland or in another U.S. state, you should promptly seek the advice of a Maryland medical malpractice attorney or a medical malpractice attorney in your state who may agree to investigate your possible medical malpractice claim for you and represent you and your family in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.

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

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