Publications across the country may be categorizing the story of how one William Martinez of Lawrenceville, Georgia died under their “Weird News” or “Wacky News” sections, however the circumstances of his unfortunate death should not detract from the serious nature of medical malpractice. In general, medical malpractice is thought of as when the doctor or healthcare provider messes up something during treatment by prescribing an incorrect medication or errors during surgery such as operating on the wrong part, complications, or even an object being left in the body after an operation. Though surgical error is a major issue in the area of medicine, and one of my professional specialties as an attorney, negligence, whether willful or not, as Mr. Martinez's estate alleges, is also a problem that our courts address.
The suit by Mr. Martinez's estate alleges that his cardiologist was negligent in failing to explicitly tell him to stop all physical activity and take a medical history after determining he was at high risk for clogged arteries. Even if stopping physical activity sounded like an obvious step to the doctor that needed no particular emphasis, it was a set of instructions that, legally and ethically, had to be given, and the failure to take a medical history is perhaps even more important as it may have spotlighted an issue that knowledge of which may have kept Mr. Martinez alive.
A jury agreed, awarding the estate $5 million, which was reduced to $3 million as a sign of recognition that Mr. Martinez bore some of the responsibility for his own death, perhaps on the same belief that stopping physical activity when one has a pending appointment for heart trouble is partially common sense. Despite the difficulties inherent in medical malpractice cases, juries are coming to recognize that occasionally what a doctor or nurse doesn't do is as harmful as what he or she can do, and in this case, failure to take that history unfortunately cost a man his life. Cases where a doctor's negligence is allegedly at fault are particularly difficult to resolve in favor of a patient, but an experienced medical malpractice attorney is able to obtain a fair resolution that holds healthcare providers fully accountable for the harm caused.