Illinois Jury Finds for Doctor in Medical Malpractice Case in Death of a Pregnant Woman; Estate of Ariss v. Dr. Serry

On June 12, 2006, 35-year-old Tracy Ariss underwent an echo-cardiogram stress test at LaGrange Memorial Hospital after a workup for carpal tunnel pain in her arms was found to be inconclusive. Less than 3 minutes into the stress test, Tracy suffered a myocardial infarction — a heart attack. She was immediately taken off the treadmill and treated with nitroglycerin, aspirin and other medicine.

The defendant Rod Serry, M.D., an interventional cardiologist, was called from the cath lab. Even though Tracy did not believe that she was pregnant, Dr. Serry ordered a pregnancy test. Tracy was about 2 ½ weeks pregnant. Her pregnancy complicated her medical treatment in that Dr. Serry did not know any other cardiologists who had performed a cardiac intervention on a pregnant woman after suffering a heart attack.
Dr. Serry called an obstetrician seeking help as to the proper course of treatment. The obstetrician told Dr. Serry that he should make medical choices for the mother as the primary concern. At the trial, Dr. Serry testified that the OB also stressed to him not to prescribe anticoagulants or other medicine long-term during pregnancy. However, this was not noted in the medical chart.

Dr. Serry performed a cardiac catheterization where he found 95 percent blockage in the proximal left anterior descending coronary artery and successfully opened that artery. He decided to insert a bare-metal stent because he knew it would reduce the need for long-term medicine.

It was claimed that Tracy had told Dr. Serry that she did not want to take any medicines that would adversely affect her pregnancy. She had been on fertility drugs for two years in an effort to conceive a child. That evidence was not allowed to be heard by the jury because of the Dead Man’s Act of Illinois, which bars evidence from an interested party in the litigation of some conversation he or she had with the now deceased person.

Dr. Serry was allowed, however, to testify that he checked with his medical colleagues before making a decision about the treatment he would undertake. He was not allowed to testify as to what others told him because it was hearsay.

Tracy tolerated the stent procedure well. Originally, Dr. Serry prescribed aspirin, but when the OB wrote an order that Tracy should not receive aspirin, it was stopped and substituted with Plavix for 24 days. An echo-cardiogram in July 2006 showed that Tracy’s heart was in excellent condition. At a follow-up visit with Dr. Serry on July 12, 2006, he asked Tracy to return to see him in her third trimester. Dr. Serry’s notes showed that Tracy was being seen by a maternal-fetal specialist, her OB and her own internist.
On Nov. 24, 2006, the day after Thanksgiving, Tracy was driving to Wisconsin when she stopped at a gas station. She went into the restroom and fell dead. Her baby, Joshua, died in utero.

Tracy was survived by her husband and their 4-year-old child. Tracy was working as a bus driver and an executive secretary.

At the jury trial, it was contended that Dr. Serry deviated from the standard of care by choosing not to prescribe 325 mg of aspirin for one month followed by 81 mg thereafter. It was also argued that Dr. Serry chose not to prescribe a beta blocker, failed to set up follow-up visits and failed to repeat a stress echo-cardiogram.

The defendant countered those arguments by maintaining that the standard of care was met as set by the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association. These guidelines do not apply to pregnant women.

The defendants also maintained that Dr. Serry’s decisions were within the standard of care and that the autopsy found that the left anterior descending artery had been completely blocked as opposed to some plaque deposits. It was also presented that Tracy was a smoker, which would cause abnormal cellular growth.

The attorneys for Tracy asked the jury for a verdict between $5.7 million and $6.1 million. According to the Jury Verdict Reporter, the defendant offered nothing to settle.
Estate of Tracy Ariss, deceased and the Estate of Joshua Ariss, deceased, a minor v. Dr. Rod D. Serry, 08 L 12238 (Cook County).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling wrongful death cases, medical malpractice matters and birth injury cases for individuals and families, for more than 36 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Deerfield, Hillside, Gurnee, Wilmette, Chicago (Logan Square), South Holland and Riverside, Illinois.

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