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Doctors fail to spot swollen epiglottis, causing wrongful death


There are many medical conditions that should be easily diagnosed and treated. Despite the ease with which these conditions can be handled, failing to do so quickly and correctly can be fatal. Perhaps the scariest part of these situations is that patients are entirely reliant on medical professional’s expertise. This means that a fatal scenario can arise in the blink of an eye, stripping an unsuspecting individual from his or her family.

This happened to one man when doctors failed to recognize that his epiglottis, the flap in the throat that keeps food from entering the airway, was swollen. The man went to the hospital when he thought he got a pill stuck in his throat. Once at the emergency room and unable to breathe, medical personnel performed the Heimlich maneuver, then, once that failed to remedy the problem, they performed a tracheostomy. All of these attempts were unsuccessful, and the man died shortly thereafter. The deceased man’s family has now filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the hospital.

Losing a loved one to a medical mistake is never easy. It can be hard waking up in the morning hoping the tragic event was just a bad dream, then remembering the stark reality of his or her passing. In addition to emotional devastation, a surviving family may find itself short on money due to medical expenses, funeral costs, and lost wages.

Though a wrongful death lawsuit may not eliminate the pain associated with losing a loved one to a doctor mistake, it might bring a family the compensation it needs to pay off unexpected debt and find financial stability. Also, a successful claim punishes errant doctors who fail to provide the minimum standard of care to which all patients are entitled. Those who find themselves in one of these situations should consider discussing their legal options with an Oregon attorney.

Source: The Times-Tribune, “Family of man who suffocated to death sues Geisinger,” Terrie Morgan-Besecker, Jun. 20, 2014