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Medication error that caused brain damage results in $15M award

While it is of course unfortunate any time an incident prompting a medical malpractice lawsuit occurs, most would agree it is that much worse when the injured patient is a child. Such injuries often severely impact the way in which that young person will live his or her life. The family of a young girl in another state has had to face that reality. Though the young girl who was injured as a result of a medical mistake is not from the Pittsburgh area, it is possible that such a thing could occur anywhere.

The girl, who had previously undergone a heart transplant, was injured in 2008 when she was 4-years-old. When she came down with a serious cold, her mother contacted the local hospital and spoke with a cardiology fellow to determine how to best treat her stuffy nose. That individual followed-up with the doctor who was familiar with the young girl's condition to find out what drugs the child could take. Because of the effect it could have on the girl's blood pressure, the cardiologist reportedly specifically told the fellow that she should avoid Afrin nasal spray. Despite this, the cardiology fellow reportedly included that drug on the list of medications that the girl's mother could give her.

Following that communication the girl's mother drove to a local drug store, purchased, and gave her daughter a dose of the nasal spray. As the two drove home, the woman noticed her daughter was not breathing and stopped her vehicle to administer CPR. Though she survived, as a result of a lack of oxygen, the girl suffered serious brain damage.

Since her release from the hospital, the girl's parents have sought both cognitive and physical therapy for her as well as stem-cell treatment. As a result of the related expenses, the girl's parents eventually filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital where the doctors involved in the case worked, alleging the negligent advice was what led to her brain damage. Recently, a judgment in the matter was rendered. The family of the now 8-year-old girl received a total of $15.2 million. That award will undoubtedly help with the girl's medical expenses.

Many likely assume that all medical malpractice lawsuits are accompanied by a dislike of the healthcare providers involved in the negligence. This is not always the case. Despite the tragic outcome for their daughter, the girl's parents continue to take their daughter to the cardiologist who reportedly indicated the nasal spray should not be used.

Source: Seattle Times, "UW must pay family $15M for error that left daughter disabled," Carol M. Ostrom, July 12, 2013

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