Infection Malpractice Lawsuit Settled Over Flesh-Eating Bacteria

A confidential settlement has been reached in a Florida medical malpractice lawsuit involving allegations that a woman contracted a flesh-eating infection during the delivery of her child, resulting in the amputation of all four of her limbs.

The infection malpractice lawsuit was filed on behalf of Claudia Mejia Edwards against Orlando Regional Healthcare System, Inc., a non-profit now known as Orlando Health.

Following the delivery of her second child at Orlando Regional South Seminole Hospital in April 2005, Edwards began complaining of a rash, chills, fever and other symptoms. The hospital attempted to discharge her anyway, but she refused to leave.

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Doctors eventually operated and discovered that Edwards had gangrene and Group A Streptococcal infection, often referred to as a flesh-eating bacteria. It was necessary for all of her limbs to be amputated to prevent her death, leaving the mother of two young boys confined to a wheelchair.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, a settlement was reached weeks after Edwards’ medical malpractice lawyer began pushing for punitive damages. The attorney alleged that one nurse was guilty of “wanton and reckless conduct,” after refusing to testify under oath as to whether she noticed Edwards had an infection or if she were even trained to recognize such an infection if she saw one.

Malpractice lawsuits similar to Edwards’ claim have the potential to result in very high jury awards if they are not settled out of court. In February 2009, a Texas jury awarded $17.5 million to a man who lost all four limbs to a hospital infection known as MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which he developed after surgery for ulcers at RHD Memorial Medical Center in Farmers Branch, Texas.

Hospital infection lawsuits over failure to properly diagnose or treat life-threatening infectons have become increasingly common in recent years, as many experts have come to recognize that if the proper standards of medical care are followed, such serious and life-threatening injuries should not occur.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are more than 2 million hospital infections acquired each year, resulting in about 90,000 deaths annually. Another 1.5 million long term care and nursing home infections occur every year.

Experts suggest that when hospitals follow certain steps and protocols, the infection rate at a particular facility can be negligible. These protocols include frequent washing of hands, instruments and patient rooms. In addition, screening for latent infections in incoming patients can allow staff to take steps to prevent other hospital patients from becoming infected.


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