Jury Finds for Doctor in Case Alleging Improper Treatment of Peptic Ulcer Disease

In a Cook County medical malpractice lawsuit, a patient’s surviving family members filed a medical negligence lawsuit claiming that the doctor had misdiagnosed the patient’s disease and elected not to properly treat it. However, a jury found in favor of the defendant doctor after determining that the doctor’s actions did not directly cause the patient’s death in The Estate of D.W., deceased, et al. v. Dr. Lee, Midwest Surgery, S.C., 11 L 79.

The decedent first met the defendant doctor after being admitted to Sherman Hospital with complaints of chest and abdominal pain in April 2003. Dr. Lee, a general surgeon, was brought in on consult after a CT scan did not return any clear or obvious cause for the patient’s pain; the CT scan only showed the presence of free air.
After reviewing the patient’s medical history, the doctors concluded that the pain was likely caused by a perforated duodenal ulcer located near the patient’s small intestine. Dr. Lee performed an emergency surgery to repair the perforated ulcer. A little over three weeks later, the patient was discharged from Sherman Hospital with orders to follow up with Dr. Lee in four days.

Everything seemed to be going well, until December 2003 when the patient returned to Sherman Hospital, this time with a diagnosis of cholecystitis and cholelithiasis, i.e. a bladder infection and gallstones. Once again, Dr. Lee was called as a consultant and ended up performing the surgery to remove the patient’s gallbladder. He was then discharged just four days after presenting to the hospital and was again instructed to follow up with Dr. Lee.

Again, things seemed to be going well until the following August, when the patient once again presented to the Sherman Hospital ER with complaints of abdominal pain. Once again he was admitted and had another CT scan showing free air in his abdomen. Dr. Lee was not on call at the time, so one of her partners at Midwest Surgery, S.C. was consulted. Dr. Lee’s partner performed an emergency surgery in repair the newly perforated ulcer. And while the surgery went relatively well, the patient died the following day in the ICU.

The patient was survived by his wife, who filed the initial wrongful death lawsuit claiming loss of society and loss of consortium. However, she died while the lawsuit was pending, so the survival claims were picked up by her son. The lawsuit sought damages under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act and claimed that Dr. Lee had failed to treat the patient’s underlying peptic ulcer disease. In addition, the lawsuit claimed that Dr. Lee had misdiagnosed this ulcer disease as a gallbladder disease and had unnecessarily removed the patient’s gallbladder.

In response, Dr. Lee and her surgical practice maintained that they had complied with the acceptable standard of care and had not made any surgical errors. Dr. Lee testified that she had correctly removed the patient’s perforated ulcer in May 2003 and had been right to remove his diseased gallbladder in December 2003. She further maintained that she had not done anything wrong and had not caused or contributed to the decedent’s death.

Prior to the Cook County medical negligence trial, the plaintiff’s estate had made a demand of $2 million in order to settle the case. However, Dr. Lee and her medical group not only rejected the plaintiff’s offer, but made no counteroffer to settle. Fortunately for Dr. Lee’s medical group, the jury agreed with Dr. Lee and entered a not guilty verdict against the defendant doctor.

Kreisman Law Office has been handling Chicago surgical negligence matters for individuals and families for more than 36 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County, and surrounding areas, including Melrose Park, Winfield, Chicago’s Bridgeport, Morton Grove, Niles, and Lansing.

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