COMMENTARY

Malpractice Risks Under the ACA; More

Wayne J. Guglielmo, MA

Disclosures

December 23, 2013

In This Article

No Harm, No Foul, State High Court Finds

Despite what many people think, medical negligence doesn't always result in harm to the patient, as chronicled in a recent story from the Associated Press.[4]

In 2007, South Dakota resident Lisa Lewis sued Sanford USD Medical Center, in Sioux Falls, for a mistake made during preparation for laparoscopic gastric band surgery, when an anesthesiologist connected a stomach tube to an oxygen supply rather than to a suction device.

In her suit, Lewis claimed that the flow of oxygen into her stomach caused a type of cardiac problem known as "sick sinus syndrome," which required that doctors fit her with a pacemaker.

Acknowledging negligence but denying that it led to any damage, the hospital at trial called upon an expert witness who testified that although diagnosed postsurgically, the patient's cardiac problem was a "preexisting condition."

The trial jurors agreed with the defense and awarded no damages to the plaintiff. Lewis then appealed to the circuit court, which granted her a new trial. The order was reversed, however, by the state's highest court, which found that the trial jury had acted properly when it concluded from the evidence that the hospital's negligence had not caused the plaintiff's "cardiac and subsequent medical problems."

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