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Physician Not Negligent in Discharging Patient with Chest Pains

Matt Maddox defended an internal medicine specialist practicing primary care in Pike County, Illinois. A long time patient appeared at his office with a recent history of chest pain following exertion while gardening. He admitted her to the local hospital in order to determine whether her complaints were musculoskeletal or cardiac. Serial EKGs and enzymes were performed at the hospital. The physician concluded that her complaints were musculoskeletal and discharged her with a plan to follow up with a nuclear stress study at another hospital in a larger city. Approximately one week after discharge, the patient returned to the local emergency room with complaints of chest pain. She was assessed and discharged from that ER visit. While being transported to her car, she collapsed and was pronounced dead.

The Plaintiff filed a lawsuit asserting that our client was negligent in discharging the patient without a stress test. The Plaintiff’s expert asserted that the patient should have been transferred immediately to another facility where a nuclear stress test was available. We contended that the physician appropriately ruled out a cardiac cause of the patient’s condition and that it was appropriate to discharge her for a follow up nuclear stress test. We also contended that the patient died not of a cardiac arrest as asserted by the Plaintiff, but of a respiratory arrest following the administration of Ativan and Morphine at the ER visit immediately before her discharge.

The jury returned a verdict in favor of our client.