By: Staff Writers | Published: April 1st, 2010
A Baltimore County jury has awarded $1.44 million in a Maryland wrongful death lawsuit filed against a hospital and several doctors that failed to properly treat a case of sepsis, which eventually turned fatal.
The medical malpractice lawsuit was brought by the family of Thomas Murphy against doctors at St. Joseph Medical Center of Towson, Maryland. Murphy died of sepsis on June 11, 2007, a day after he was admitted to the hospital, according to a report in the Baltimore Sun.
The Baltimore County Circuit Court jury ruled this week that doctors at St. Joseph Medical Center failed to provide proper care to Murphy and awarded the family $1.44 million. The sepsis lawsuit alleged that doctors determined Murphy had some kind of infection, but thought it likely that he had pneumonia. Murphy was given a broad-spectrum antibiotic and admitted to the hospital, where he died the next morning.
The only defendant left as part of the lawsuit at the time of the ruling was Dr. Richard Tempel. Two other doctors and St. Joseph Medical Center settled with Murphy’s family out of court.
Sepsis is a form of body-wide inflammation that results from the reaction to an infection. Symptoms can include high heart rate, a high respiratory rate, a high or low body temperature and elevated white blood cell count. Sepsis can cause organ damage and organ failure, and severe cases result in death about 20 to 35% of the time.
The hospital malpractice lawsuit comes as St. Joseph is facing a number of other lawsuits over unnecessarily heart stents, which the hospital has acknowledged may have been implanted in hundreds of patients.
In recent months, St. Joseph has sent letters to 538 patients notifying them that a former heart surgeon, Dr. Mark Midei, may have implanted a heart stent that they did not need. Several patients have reported that Dr. Midei told them that they had severe coronary blockages when in truth the blockages were minor or non-existent, and may not have required a permanent stent to prop the artery open.
The stent surgery problems at St. Joseph Medical Center were uncovered as part of an on-going federal investigation of Medicare fraud and other health law violations involving the financial relationship between the hospital and an affiliated group of cardiologists.
While St. Joseph hospital initially denied that any patient care was impacted, they are no longer making such statements, and have since started reviewing all procedures performed by Dr. Midei between May 2007 and 2009. However, Maryland malpractice lawyers investigating cases indicate that additional unnecessary stent procedures at St. Joseph may have been performed, which the hospital has not yet acknowledged.