Jury Finds Doctor’s Treatment Gave Patient Brain Damage

On behalf of Brown & Crouppen, P.C. posted in Medical Malpractice on Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A calculus teacher who was left with the cognitive abilities of a child after a doctor and nurse allegedly gave her more than twice the recommended dosage of sodium was awarded $34 million by a New Jersey jury in her medical malpractice case. The defendants are appealing the verdict, claiming that a rare virus was responsible for the brain damage that left the woman with severe physical and mental disabilities.

The plaintiff, now in her late 40s, checked into the hospital near her home after falling ill due to low levels of sodium in her body, a condition known as hyponatremia. The doctor who treated her ordered sodium to be administered. However, instead of the recommended 10 to 12 units of sodium per 24 hours of treatment, the plaintiff was given 27 unites in just 14 hours, her attorney said. The overly high number of units caused severe brain damage, the attorney said.

Today, the woman lives at a rehabilitation facility six days a week and spends Saturday at home with her husband. The mother of five can only speak a few words at a time and her mental functions are equivalent to a young child, her attorney said. She also has limited motion. Her husband said the verdict would go to paying for her care so that they could afford to have her live at home full-time.

The doctor and nurse who were found liable in the medical malpractice suit are planning to appeal, attorneys for the hospital said. They claim that the patient’s brain damage was caused by encephalitis, a rare virus that causes inflammation of the brain. An attorney for the hospital dismissed the fact that the plaintiff tested negative for encephalitis. He said that encephalitis tests are unreliable.

Source: The Newark Star-Ledger, “Montague family awarded $34M in malpractice suit after mother suffers brain damage,” Ben Horowitz, July 20, 2011

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