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Jury says doctor errors led to woman's death

Even when a prognosis is unclear, much of the stress associated with an illness can be relieved when a diagnosis is made and a treatment plan is established. Oregon patients rely on their doctors to carry out the treatment plan in accordance with established care standards. When doctor errors cause treatment to be ineffective, patients can suffer serious, debilitating or even deadly consequences.

The family of an out-of-state woman blamed her death on a crucial mistake that was made during her treatment. Surviving family members filed a lawsuit against multiple defendants, most of which entered into a settlement agreement before trial. However, the doctor involved refused to take responsibility for his part in the woman's death, and that could be part of the reason why the jury on the case awarded the family approximately $19.7 million in damages.

The woman was a surgical technician in Texas. She became a patient of the hospital in which she worked after she was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome. Treatment for the condition, which attacks the nervous system, often requires that the patient be put on a mechanical ventilator to help with breathing difficulties.

Not only was a breathing tube improperly inserted into the woman's trachea, but a nurse turned her without assistance, which caused the breathing tube to dislodge. For approximately 35 minutes, the woman did not receive adequate oxygen. She was in a vegetative state for nearly a year before she died in Jan. 2015.

Unlike mistakes made in many other professions, doctor errors can be deadly. If physicians and other medical personnel are not held accountable for their actions, other people could suffer serious injuries or die as well. Like many people who file medical malpractice claims here in Oregon, her husband filed the lawsuit -- at least in part -- to obtain some sense of justice for his wife and those who survived her.

Source: dallasnews.com, "Jury awards $20M to family of Burleson woman who died after medical error", Caleb Downs, Aug. 31, 2016

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