Lessons learned from representing physicians who were victims of medical malpractice as patients

Considering that I’m a Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer representing injured patients and their families, some people are surprised to learn that I represented quite a few doctors.

Over the years, we’ve had physicians who we’ve sued or experts for a defendant come back to us later to ask us to represent them in a matter. We always appreciate that compliment on our professionalism and level of preparation.

I think it also reflects our belief that that hospital administrators, doctors, or nurses aren’t evil people. Rather, just like everyone else in the human race, healthcare provider sometimes make mistakes. And when those mistakes result in significant injury or harm to the patient, the place to reach resolution is the legal system.

Painter Law Firm currently represents two physician clients. One was a patient herself. The other’s child was the patient, with the physician parent present at the bedside during the treatment in question. As with all such cases were we represent a doctor that is a plaintiff in a medical malpractice case, I can’t help but think about how if this happened to a doctor imagine what happens to patients with no medical training.

This brings to mind an interesting and shocking story about what happened to a neurologist in his senior years. This physician was a medical school professor who had a known history of a spine infection. While he was on vacation, he developed neck pain that he thought was because of intense physical activity. When he noticed numbness and tingling in both of his arms, he decided to take the safe and prudent route and went for evaluation at a nearby hospital emergency room (ER).

From the moment he walked into the emergency room, he politely shared that he was a neurologist and had a concern about his symptoms being possibly related to cord or nerve root compression. That type of situation would certainly explain the pain, numbness, and tingling. The best way to know for sure, though, would be a thorough neuro-check and diagnostic testing, including lab work and an MRI.

The ER doctor ordered a spine consultation. The spine consultant showed up and did an exam that the neurologist knew was inadequate. The spine consultant didn’t check the patient’s reflexes with a hammer, and didn’t check his gait, coordination, or motor strength. Other elements of his physical exam were poorly executed.

The lab work came back abnormal, with abnormally high white blood cell count (WBC) and inflammatory markers. Both of these are signs consistent with an infection and should merit for the workup. The MRI itself showed spinal cord arthritis, cord compression, and amassed behind the spinal cord that the radiologist felt was probably a blood clot.

The spine consultant and emergency physician didn’t tell the neurologist anything about these alarming findings, but instead recommended he follow up with a spine surgeon within two weeks.

After the patient returned home, he logged onto the patient portal from his hospital visit and was shocked at what he read, including the concerning radiology and lab reports. He went to his regular hospital in his hometown, where he was admitted for surgery to drain and decompress his cervical epidural abscess, a condition that could be life-threatening or lead to complete paralysis (quadriplegia).

Another thing that I’ve noticed over the years that’s curious to me is how well-intentioned friends and family members will discourage patients with serious injuries from contacting a medical malpractice lawyer. They sometimes suggest that medical mistakes were actually the patient’s fault because of a lack of knowledge or information or were simply unavoidable. To me, that the unfortunate cases were physicians themselves, and are victims of medical malpractice, reaffirmed to me that if it could happen to them, it could happen to anyone.

If you’ve been seriously injured because of substandard healthcare in Texas, then contact a pop-rated, experienced Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer to discuss your potential case.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.