Painter Law Firm files medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit against surgeons at Providence Health Center, in Waco
Medical expert: Delayed diagnosis & treatment of punctured stomach after hernia surgery causes infection, sepsis, & death
Painter Law Firm filed a medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit yesterday in Waco, McLennan County, Texas, regarding the care provided to Elizabeth Woosley by surgeons at Providence Health Center.
In August 2016, 78-year-old Elizabeth Woosley was admitted to the hospital for a Type 4 paraesophageal hernia repair surgery. Her surgeons were David Hoffman, M.D. and Karen Burnett, M.D.
According to the medical records, after surgery, Elizabeth had low blood pressure and altered mental status. She was transferred to the intensive care unit (ICU). Lab work showed that her white blood cell count was elevated.
On the day after the surgery, Dr. Burnett already suspected sepsis. Sepsis is a potentially-deadly complication of infection, where the body’s normal immune response goes into overdrive. Over one million patients develop sepsis each year in the United States.
Dr. Burnett ordered and esophagram, or barium swallow, which showed no contrast leakage but poor passage into the stomach. Overnight, Elizabeth developed worsening respiratory distress and had to have a breathing tube inserted down her throat (intubation). An infectious diseases specialist saw her and felt that she was in septic shock respiratory failure and recommended a CT scan.
Two days after her hernia repair surgery, Dr. Hoffman took Elizabeth back to the operating room and found, and repaired, a 2 cm (0.8 in) perforation (tear) in her stomach. After this second surgery, she coded, was resuscitated, and placed on life support. She died the next day.
As part of our careful investigation of this potential case, we hired a board certified general surgeon to review the medical records and care provided by the two surgeons at Providence Health Center, in Waco.
Our expert general surgeon concluded that Dr. Hoffman and Dr. Burnett were negligent by failing to consider and explore the possibility of gastric perforation on the day of the initial surgery, when Elizabeth’s post-operative blood pressure plummeted. The expert explained that other potential causes of her hypotension include a bleed or massive embolism, but neither seemed likely in her case.
The expert believes that they should have ordered abdominal CT scan when she started having problems on the day of the surgery, which would have likely revealed the gastric perforation. This should have led to her prompt return to the operating room for surgery to repair the gastric perforation on the same day.
According to our general surgery expert, the delay in diagnosing and correcting Elizabeth’s gastric perforation led to additional days of leakage of her stomach contents into her abdominal cavity, and development of infection and sepsis that led to her death. Our expert believes that but-for this negligence, Elizabeth would have survived and continue to lead the normal, active life that she had enjoyed before her hernia surgery.
We are here to help
As a graduate of Baylor Law School, I am familiar with the hospitals in Waco. Knowing the small-town feel of the community, I understand why some injured patients and families have asked us to represent them—they have found that some local attorneys are unwilling to handle medical malpractice cases in Waco.
When it comes to hiring a medical malpractice attorney, experience matters. If you or someone you love has been seriously injured by surgical, medical, or hospital malpractice, our experienced medical negligence attorneys can help. Click here to send us a confidential email via our “Contact Us” form or call us at 281-580-8800.
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Robert Painter is a medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits against hospitals, physicians, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other healthcare providers. A member of the board of directors of the Houston Bar Association, he was honored, in 2017, by H Texas as one of Houston’s top lawyers. In May 2018, the Better Business Bureau recognized Painter Law Firm PLLC with its Award of Distinction.
Robert Painter is a medical malpractice lawyer at Painter Law Firm PLLC.
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Published in the July/August 2018 edition of "The Houston Lawyer" magazine