August 25, 2021
Chad J. Bradford and Courtney M. McCormick obtained a defense verdict in favor of an emergency medicine physician in Jasper Superior Court (Rensselaer, Indiana) on August 25, 2021.
The patient was seen in the emergency department late in the evening for complaints of diarrhea with nausea and vomiting and a migraine headache. The emergency medicine physician treated the patient for the reported complaints and observed her in the emergency department for several hours. The patient was prescribed medications and advised to return if her symptoms worsened. Approximately a day and a half following the emergency department visit, the patient died from a hydromorphone overdose despite never receiving a prescription for hydromorphone.
Plaintiff claimed that the emergency room physician missed indications of either sepsis or complications from idiopathic thrombocytopenia (“ITP”). Plaintiff contended that the patient’s death was multifactorial and likely the result of her undiagnosed sepsis, ITP, and her body’s inability to process her medications. Plaintiff produced expert testimony from the patient’s treating hematologist and an adult and pediatric critical care physician from St. Louis, Missouri.
In addition to support from the medical review panel, the defense called a board-certified emergency medicine physician and professor of medicine from Cincinnati, Ohio and the forensic toxicologist involved in the patient’s death investigation. The defense argued that the care and treatment provided by the emergency medicine physician was reasonable and appropriate and that the post-mortem toxic level of hydromorphone resulted from the patient taking a non-prescribed hydromorphone containing drug.
The trial was conducted over six days, after which time a unanimous verdict was returned in favor of the defendant.