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Pulmonary Embolism Malpractice Death Case

Martin v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.

Doctor Treating a Prison PatientThis is a medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of the family of an inmate who suffered pulmonary embolism while incarcerated in Baltimore This claim was filed in Maryland Health Claims Arbitration on February 15, 2017. It is the 79th medical malpractice case filed in 2017 in Maryland and the second inmate malpractice lawsuit this year (the first represented by a lawyer).

Summary of Plaintiff's Allegations

A man is incarcerated that the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic and Classification Center in Baltimore City where defendant Wexford is responsible for the healthcare providers. He is incarcerated for about three and a half years.

One day, he comes under the care of a physician assistant after a nurse recorded a low pulse oxygen reading earlier that day. The man complains of a tight chest, feeling tired, hot, weak, and in need of treatment. He is referred to the Medical Clinic. While in the Medical Unit, the man has a hard time breathing and is wheezing, so he is given two nebulizer treatments. A chest x-ray is documented in the man's plan of care. He is checked again later that evening, but not given a chest x-ray, and his pulse is still low. He is instructed to return to his cell and that he will have a physician appointment the next day.

However, his condition does not improve, and no actions or treatment is provided to him the following two days. Three days after he is last seen in the Medical Unit, he is moved to the Medical Clinic where he began vomiting and feeling ill. He has pain with breathing and has blood tinged coughs. A medical emergency is called in his room that afternoon after he is found in a wheelchair unresponsive. CPR is attempted and he is moved from the Medical Unit to Johns Hopkins where he is pronounced dead two and a half hours later.

His family files this claim, alleging that if his condition would have been timely identified and treated, that he would have survived.

Additional Comments
  • Unlike most prison malpractice cases, this case was filed by lawyers who regularly handle medical malpractice cases. Why would a lawyer take this case? First, it is in Baltimore City which is more likely to give a prisoner's family a fair shake in a malpractice lawsuit. Many Baltimore City jurors have friends or family that have been in jail. They understand well how prisoners can be treated.
  • The other reason this case got the attention of a malpractice lawyer is that the patient had many classic symptoms of a pulmonary embolism or other heart condition that were ignored.
  • Doctors need to be alert for a pulmonary embolism because the misdiagnosis rate is very high as is the risk of grave injury. Pulmonary embolism frequently causes sudden death. The risk is particularly high when one or more of the vessels that supply the lungs with blood are completely blocked by a clot.
  • This is also a case of failure to diagnose that this patient was in trouble. An arterial blood gas oxygen saturation is not highly correlated with a pulmonary embolism. But it is highly correlated with a very sick patient. Plaintiffs' malpractice lawyers may find fertile ground to point to systemic errors at a prison hospital. This should not be a hard sell for anyone who has any connection to medical treatment in a correctional facility.
  • An inmate is not a particularly sympathetic figure in most cases. But his family might be. Prison medical facilities do not have the halo going into a trial that some jurors afford many doctors.
  • Baltimmore City
  • Wexford Health Sources, Inc.
Hospitals Where Patient was Treated
  • Johns Hopkins Hospital
  • Failure to timely and properly respond to the man's ongoing complaints
  • Failure to timely order appropriate testing and consultations
  • Failure to review the man's prior health records
  • Failure to timely diagnose, recognize, follow and treat the man's repeated complaints about shortness of breath, low oxygenation and difficulty breathing
Specific Counts Pled
  • Medical Negligence - Survival Action
  • Medical Negligence - Wrongful death
Plaintiff's Experts and Areas of Specialty
  • None at this time
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