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$1.4 Million Settlement for Failure to Diagnose Impending Heart Attack

Following mediation with the defendant physicians and the MCARE Fund, attorneys Carol Nelson Shepherd and Peter M. Newman negotiated a $1.4 million settlement for the wrongful death of a 35-year-old wife and mother, who suffered a heart attack and died at home after having been examined and discharged from two hospitals earlier the same day. A confidentiality clause in the settlement agreement precludes disclosure of the names of the defendant physicians and institutions.

The decedent was awakened in the early morning hours by pain in her chest and went directly to hospital #1, arriving at 5:30am. The emergency physician gave the plaintiff a “GI cocktail” and nitroglycerin, both without relief. Even though an EKG demonstrated an abnormality, the emergency physician discharged the plaintiff, barely an hour after she had arrived, with the diagnosis: “chest pain, musculoskeletal.”

The decedent returned home, where her chest pain continued, unabated. Her husband then drove her to Hospital #2, arriving just 35 minutes after leaving Hospital #1. At Hospital #2, the emergency physician obtained the chart from Hospital #1, ordered a repeat EKG and sent blood to the lab for analysis. Even though the EKG was read “abnormal,” and blood tests indicated that a heart attack may be evolving, the emergency physician did not obtain a consultation with a cardiologist and did not repeat the EKG or blood tests before discharging the patient with the diagnosis of “atypical chest pain.”

The decedent died at home in bed later the same day, in the presence of her family. The autopsy identified a lesion in the left anterior descending coronary artery with ischemic damage to the heart muscle supplied by that vessel, which had resulted in the decedent’s death. Plaintiff’s cardiology and emergency medicine experts, both from Harvard Medical School, opined that with proper care, the patient’s evolving heart attack would have been discovered and appropriately treated, and that she would not have suffered the cardiac arrest that took her life.

The settlement will be shared by the decedent’s husband and two children.