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Family gets $15 million for brain injury caused by medical error

Imagine that your child has a history of medical problems. He has been in and out of the hospital most of his life, but has been doing very well at managing his condition. When he comes down with a cold, however, you worry more than other parents might. You have been working with doctors for your child's whole life and trust that they know what they're doing. When they recommend an over-the-counter medication for your child's cold, however, the doctor you speak to forgets to mention that there is one kind you should avoid. 

Sadly, this difficult scenario was experienced firsthand by a family in another state. Their young daughter needed a heart transplant as a baby, but had grown into it well. In 2008, the 4-year-old caught a cold. Her mother called a doctor, explained her child's situation. The doctor she spoke to called a cardiologist who specialized in transplants to get an expert opinion. He told the doctor to recommend nasal spray with the exception of one kind. The doctor then called the mother back and told her his advice, but forgot to mention that one brand could cause trouble for the young girl. 

Unknowingly, the mother purchased the over-the-counter nasal spray that could harm her daughter. Shortly after giving her a dose, the 4-year-old stopped breathing. Although emergency responders were able to save her life, she suffered severe brain injury in the incident. She will need full-time medical assistance for the rest of her life. After facing expensive bills and trouble with insurance companies, her parents filed a medical malpractice suit. Recently, they were awarded $15.2 million.

This tragic story shows the serious damage that even a minor error in communication can cause. While serious medical errors cannot often be reversed, victims and their families should know that negligent hospitals and doctors can be held accountable through medical malpractice lawsuits.

Source: Yakima Herald, "Snoqualmie family awarded $15 million for medical error," Carol M. Ostrom, July 13, 2013

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