Criminal Sex Abuse or Medical Malpractice?; More

Wayne J. Guglielmo, MA

Disclosures

January 28, 2019

In This Article

Anesthesiologist Not Off the Hook Yet, High Court Decides

Overturning two lower-court decisions, the Florida Supreme Court has ruled against an anesthesiologist accused of medical malpractice in a case involving a woman who died while undergoing surgery to remove a cranial tumor, reports a story that appeared in Health News Florida, among other media outlets.[4]

Before the surgery, anesthesiologist Arturo Lorenzo conducted a preanesthesia evaluation of Maria Elena Espinosa. That evaluation revealed an abnormal EKG, but Lorenzo neither ordered a second EKG nor reported abnormal lab results to Espinosa's surgeons, according to the suit filed by her husband.

A Miami-Dade County circuit court issued a directed verdict—that is, a jury verdict that the presiding judge thinks is warranted on the basis of the evidence presented at trial—in favor of Lorenzo. That ruling was upheld by the 3rd District Court of Appeal, which said that the defendant was entitled to such a verdict because he wasn't the "primary cause" of Espinosa's death.

But writing for the 4-3 majority, state Supreme Court Justice Jorge Labarga rejected that argument: "Dr Lorenzo's conduct was not the primary cause of Espinosa's death, but he may nonetheless be liable for his part in it if his failure to read and report the abnormal test results substantially contributed to causing it. Our medical malpractice jurisprudence makes clear that a physician may be the proximate cause of a patient's injury even if that physician is not the primary cause of that injury."

The case will now go back to the circuit court for a rehearing.

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