Recently, a Superior Court in Middlesex County, Mass. awarded the family of Robby Lee Ward $3.74 million in damages in a medical malpractice suit. In this case, it was alleged that Dr. Peter J. Demartino was negligent in his follow up care to Mr. Ward. Ward died in 2006, approximately 4 months after he had been taken to Mount Auburn Hospital by ambulance for complaints of chest pains.
According to court documents, the medical personnel at the hospital could not determine that he was actively having a heart attack, but the possibility of other cardiovascular problems was not ruled out. Upon his release, Dr. Demartino advised Mr. Ward to quit taking aspirin-a blood thinner typically used by at risk heart patients. He also did not recommend that Mr. Ward to consult with a cardiologist.
In light of this evidence, the Middlesex County Court’s jury ruled that Dr. Demartino was guilty of being "negligent in his care and treatment" in Ward’s case. The base award that they gave was $3.74 million in damages, plus interest. By the time everything is said and done, the award could be worth $5.8 million in damages plus interest.
The blame in this case lies squarely on the shoulders of the doctor. While the medical personnel ruled out the possibility that Mr. Ward was actively having a heart attack, Mr. Ward was still potentially at risk for other cardiovascular accidents. There is no reason whatsoever for the doctor to encourage Mr. Ward to stop taking aspirin, especially in light of having been rushed to the hospital for chest pain. Even further, it is extremely negligent for a doctor to not refer a patient to a specialist when they are dealing with an issue outside of their specialty.
While the award will never bring Mr. Ward back to his family, the jury decided correctly in this case, and it should be noted that the same jury found that a different doctor had not been negligent in how he treated Mr. Ward.