Cook County Jury Decides Patient Death in Pulmonary Embolism

Betty Spotts fell and fractured her pelvis at her home on Feb. 10, 2011. The fracture required surgery at Ingalls Memorial Hospital. She was transferred to the defendant Providence Health Care in South Holland, Ill., on Feb. 14, 2011. Providence Health Care was supposed to provide a course of rehabilitation, including physical therapy and occupational therapy.

Just days after her admission to Providence Health Care, she began exhibiting symptoms of low oxygen levels (hypoxia) including shortness of breath, allegedly indicative of pulmonary emboli. Spotts was 81 years old.

Her symptoms got worse on Feb. 21, 2011, at which time a pulmonary embolism was diagnosed. She was readmitted to Ingalls Memorial Hospital where treatment was ultimately unsuccessful. She died on Feb. 22, 2011 survived by two adult children.

Spott’s family filed a lawsuit against Providence Health Care South Holland and Dr. Ahmed Elgamal contending that the standard of care required the facility’s nurses and defendant rehab physician, Dr. Elgamal to either transfer Betty to the hospital or at least contact her attending physician. It was also maintained that earlier treatment would have prevented her untimely death.

The defendants argued that she experienced transient drops in her pulse oxygenation readings, which did not show pulmonary emboli, that she developed a single blood clot in her lungs on Feb. 21, her change in condition was timely identified by the facility and doctor and that she was transported quickly to Ingalls Memorial Hospital for care and treatment.

The defendants further argued that Ingalls’ delayed treatment and failure to administer tPa (a blood clot busting agent) was the sole proximate cause of her death.

A pulmonary embolism is a condition that arises when a blood clot breaks loose and lodges in a lung. In cases when a pulmonary embolism is diagnosed early and treated by the clot busting agent, patients tend to do well. However, some patients die immediately when a blood clot breaks loose and travels to the lungs. Still other patients are known to die in a short period of time because of their inability to get oxygen into the bloodstream in a timely manner or when blood pressure collapses.

In any event, the jury in this case unfortunately held in favor of the defendants, the rehabilitation facility as well as the rehabilitation physician.

Before trial, a demand to settle the case was made at $625,000. The jury was asked to return a verdict in the range of $1.3 million and $1.7 million. There was an offer of $200,000 made by Providence Health Care South Holland, but none by the physician, Dr. Elgamal.

At trial, Spott’s counsel produced for testimony a treating internist, a nursing expert and a pulmonologist expert. The defendants presented experts in nursing, pulmonology and rehab/physical medicine.

Estate of Betty J. Spotts, deceased v. Providence Health Care South Holland, Dr. Ahmed Elgamal, No. 13 L 1450.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling medical negligence cases, wrongful death cases, birth injury cases and hospital negligence cases individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of a medical provider for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Naperville, Elgin, Wheaton, Chicago Ridge, Palos Heights, Calumet City, Midlothian, Harvey, Orland Park, Chicago (Lake View, Lincoln Bend, Andersonville, Albany Park, Printer’s Row, Princeton Park, Roscoe Village, Wrigleyville, West Loop, Kenwood, Jackson Park, Highland, Humboldt Park, Hyde Park, Edgewater, Edison Park, Loyola Park), Fox River Grove, Cicero, Deerfield and Des Plaines, Ill.

Robert D. Kreisman has been an active member of the Illinois and Missouri bars since 1976.

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