A Florida (FL) woman and her family received a bittersweet gift of justice just before Christmas 2010 when a jury awarded them $25 million for lasting brain injuries and mental and physical disabilities following a surgery at the teaching hospital of the University of Florida in 2006. Evidence presented in the civil lawsuit showed that the woman continued receiving blood-thinning medications despite suffering a stroke as a complication of undergoing a surgical procedure to repair damaged blood vessels in her brain.
A nurse assigned to provide post-operative care to the woman noticed the stroke symptoms but did not stop administering drugs that promoted bleeding into the woman’s brain until after irreversible damage had been done. The nurse also faced a civil lawsuit but settled separately for a reported $1 million.
Surgery, by definition, puts patients at risk for injuries and death. But leaving the operating room does not place patient out of danger. Providing quality post-op care is as important to ensuring patients leave the hospital healthier than they were on admission as is ensuring that no errors occur during surgery. Doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health care providers have the duty of protecting patients at all times — for responding quickly and appropriately to any post-surgical complications or signs that patients are in crisis.
As a lawyer who has represented many victims of medical malpractice, surgical errors and medical negligence I recognize that the money awarded by the jury will not fully compensate that Florida woman and her family for what they’ve lost. I also applaud the jurors for holding the university responsible for not ensuring the woman suffered a minimum of harm.