Emergency Room Delay Leads to Patient’s Preventable Death

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One evening, our client and her husband were watching television at home when he started having difficulty breathing. As a person with asthma, breathing problems were not unusual for him. He tried to use his inhaler, but his breathing difficulties didn’t go away.

The couple decided to go to the emergency room to be safe. On the way to the ER and upon their arrival at the hospital, the husband’s breathing continued to worsen. While they were checking in with the triage nurse, both our client and her husband made it clear that his breathing was becoming more difficult.

The Long Wait for Treatment

The couple was told to sit in the waiting room where they observed what appeared to be other patients with non-life threatening conditions such as common colds and sprained ankles. After 30 minutes in the waiting room, our client went to speak with the triage nurse about when her husband would be seen. The nurse told her that her husband would be seen as soon as possible, and to continue to wait.

Another hour passed, and the husband’s breathing continued to get worse. Our client again went to the triage nurse who dismissed her concerns, instructed her to continue to wait, and told her that there was no need to check in about when her husband would be seen.

Yet another hour passed during which time other patients were called back for far less urgent conditions. Some of these patients offered to give up their place in line so our client’s husband could be seen. During this time, the hospital staff became agitated at our client’s insistence that her husband be seen and they kept telling the couple to wait.

After waiting over three hours without being seen, our client’s husband collapsed on the floor of the waiting area in the emergency department. He had stopped breathing. The hospital called a code, and the doctors attempted to resuscitate him on the floor of the ER. The doctors started his heart and restored his breathing, but he had already sustained significant brain damage as a result of being without oxygen for too long.

He remained in the ICU for over a week and eventually passed away.

The Delay in Treatment Caused His Death

Our client ordered an autopsy, and it was determined that her husband’s breathing difficulties could easily have been cured if he had been seen by a physician sooner. Her husband needed a stronger medication than his inhaler, and he needed to be placed on oxygen until his medicine took effect. This treatment was readily available in the hospital, and a nurse could have administered it with a doctor’s orders.

Instead of treating our client’s husband who needed urgent care, the hospital saw patients with far less serious conditions first. The nurses did not follow the hospital’s own protocol on patient triage, and the result was a death that could have—and should have—been prevented.

Strong Evidence Key to Resolving Wrongful Death Case

Gray and White Law aggressively pushed this case to trial.

We subpoenaed video footage of the ER to show that our client’s husband waited needlessly while other less critically ill patients were seen before him. We fought hard in court to obtain these recordings, and we had our own product team painstakingly redact other patients’ identifying features to ensure their privacy.

Additionally, we had our private investigators track down witnesses who saw our client’s husband in the emergency room. These witnesses were more than willing to share their account of what occurred on that tragic night.

The evidence was overwhelming, and the hospital settled the case three weeks before trial.

Gray & White Is Committed to Improving ER Patient Care in Kentucky

Our firm handles many cases each year involving delays in medical treatment, especially in hospital emergency rooms. Tragically, many of these cases involve deaths or severe injuries, such as brain injuries, that are entirely preventable.

We hope this case and our other delay-in-treatment cases encourage hospitals to prioritize patient needs in the ER and to ensure that needless tragedies such as this do not occur again. If your family has suffered a tragedy because of a delay in treatment, please contact us any time for a free, no-obligation consultation.