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Physician negligence alleged in West Virginia patient's death

Charleston doctors' offices and hospitals are constantly busy. Crowded waiting rooms and overbooked patient schedules are proof of that. Physicians must prioritize duties, but unlike other professionals, choices doctors make can save or cost a patient's life.

A wrongful death claim, filed last month by the estate of a man who died two days after reporting symptoms to a Princeton doctor, alleged the patient was mistreated. During an office consultation in March 2012, the patient told the physician he was having trouble breathing, felt tired and was unusually thirsty. Tests were conducted, and the patient was sent home.

The next day, an ambulance took the patient to Bluefield Regional Medical Center. The man was diagnosed with kidney disease and a severe renal injury. The patient's condition worsened over 24 hours after his admission to the facility.

The physician phoned in orders to treat the patient but did not stop by the hospital to check on the man's health. The patient's decline ended in death a day after the diagnosis, which the medical malpractice lawsuit claimed was due to the doctor and hospital's negligence.

The personal representative of the patient's estate requested punitive damages above and beyond compensatory damages, plus interest. The plaintiff accused the defendants of gross negligence. If a jury agrees that the accused defendants seriously disregarded a patient's health and contributed to a person's death, punitive damages would serve as the civil court's version of punishment and a negligence deterrent for other health care providers.

Wrongful death claims filed by estates pursue compensation on behalf of a decedent's heirs and beneficiaries. Personal representatives in estate claims are often family members, charged with settling a late loved one's financial affairs. Damages sought depend upon the circumstances of each case but may include financial relief for funeral and burial costs, medical expenses and a loss of income due to a wage earner's death.

Source: The West Virginia Record, "Bluefield hospital, doctor face wrongful death suit", June 24, 2014

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