Illinois Jury Finds in Favor of Surgeon in Patient Death Related to Colon Ischemia

Mary Leemputte came to the emergency room at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, Ill., in April 25, 2011. She was admitted to this hospital suffering from severe abdominal pain, urinary tract infection, tachycardia or rapid heart rate and an elevated white blood cell count, which often is associated with an infectious process.

She had a history of chronic constipation and was diagnosed with a large bowel obstruction after a CT scan showed a large bulging at the site of a previous colon resection and anastomosis done in 2007.

One of the defendants, Dr. Jonathan Wallace, provided a surgical consultation that night. The doctor observed that her cecum was dilated as he reviewed the CT scan, determined her clinical presentation did not require immediate surgical intervention and ordered additional tests for further evaluation to take place the next morning.

However, her condition deteriorated by the next morning, April 26, 2011. She was 82 years old. Her elevated respiration and heart rates were increasing, she had acidosis and was in renal failure. She also complained of extreme pain.

Lower GI testing showed no obstruction of contrast on the way in, but showed an element of obstruction on the way out. Dr. Wallace was at a different hospital that morning (April 26, 2011), so he coordinated her care over the telephone until her care was transferred to the other physician defendant, Dr. James Kane, by mid-morning.

Dr. Kane saw Leemputte after completing surgery on another patient. Based on the lower GI, Dr. Kane determined that she did not have an obstruction and did not need surgery. He did order additional consults. A critical care specialist and Dr. Kane later ordered a repeat CT scan, which showed severe dilation of the colon and fluid accumulation in the peritoneal cavity.

Dr. Kane performed surgery that evening and discovered that the colon was gangrenous from end to end. She never regained consciousness, was removed from life support 4 days later and died on April 30, 2011. She is survived by 6 adult children.

Leemputte’s family filed a medical negligence and wrongful death case against the defendant physicians, Drs. Wallace and Kane, claiming that they were negligent in choosing not to timely diagnose colon ischemia as the cause of her sepsis and multi-system organ failure. In addition, it was maintained that these defendant physicians failed to adequately monitor her condition overnight, improperly followed a course of conservative management for a bowel obstruction and delayed surgical treatment to remove the obstruction.

The defendants argued at trial that she showed no sign of an ischemic bowel until it was too late. They also persuaded the jury that there was no indication that her colon was the source of the sepsis that caused the end of her life.

The court submitted a special interrogatory to the jurors that read as follows: Do you find that Dr. Jonathan Wallace was professionally negligent? Answer:  “No.”  Do you find that Dr. James Kane was professional negligent? Answer:  “No.”

Accordingly, the jury entered its verdict in favor of the defendant physicians and their medical practice and against the Estate of Mary Leemputte.  The family introduced experts in colorectal surgery while the defendants presented an expert in the same area of medical practice.

Estate of Mary J. Leemputte v. Suburban Surgical Care Specialists, S.C., Jonathan Wallace, M.D. and James Kane, M.D., No. 12 L 9618 (Cook County, Ill.).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling medical negligence cases, wrongful death lawsuits, birth trauma injury cases, hospital negligence cases and physician negligence cases for 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 Morton Grove, Niles, Des Plaines, Evanston, Skokie, Schiller Park, Salk Village, Lemont, Bolingbrook, Bensenville, Chicago (Wicker Park, Rogers Park, Jefferson Park, Englewood, Pullman, Pilsen, Greek Town, Little Italy, Chinatown, Koreatown), Lincolnshire, Lincolnwood, New Lenox and Waukegan, Ill.

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