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Failure to Diagnose Sepsis Leads to $1.44 Million Verdict

Earlier this week, attorneys for the family of Thomas Murphy won a $1.44 million verdict against a physician at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, Maryland after a jury determined that the physician failed to properly diagnose Mr. Murphy with sepsis upon his presentation to the hospital. Instead, the physician erroneously diagnosed him with an infection, and thereby only treated him with broad-spectrum antibiotics. Mr. Murphy's family argued that had he been properly and timely treated for sepsis upon his admission to the hospital, he would have survived. Mr. Murphy died just one day after his hospital admission.

Sepsis - the body's ultimate response to a bacterial infection -- is characterized by severe reaction of the body's organs to the foreign bacteria and/or death. Sepsis is also referred to as systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS). Although sepsis often results from the widespread invasion of bacteria into a patient's bloodstream, this invasion is not essential for the development of severe sepsis since local infection/inflammation can also cause distant organ dysfunction and blood pressure irregularities. Some of the common places in the body where an infection might start include the skin (celluitis), the lungs (bacterial pneumonia), liver, gall bladder, lining of the brain (meningitis), the bloodstream, the bones, the bowel, or the kidneys. For hospitalized patients, common sources of infections include bedsores (decubitus ulcers), surgical drains, intravenous lines, or surgical wounds. Unfortunately, bacteria live and breed in hospitalized settings, and thus, many healthy people who have suffered an injury requiring a drain, or IV lines or open ports into their blood stream often contract an infection that turns into sepsis.

Many studies indicate that to make a diagnosis of the clinical syndrome sepsis, at least two of the following four symptoms must be present: (1) elevated white blood cell count; (2) elevated pulse; (3) elevated breathing rate; and (4) temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Other symptoms that are commonly associated with sepsis include shaking/chills; vomiting; diffuse body pain; and abnormal behavior/neurological abnormalities. A change in mental status and elevated breathing rate may be among the earliest signs of sepsis. Bruising and bleeding are also common signs of sepsis.

As experienced medical malpractice attorneys practicing in Maryland and Washington D.C., our lawyers routinely handle cases in which physicians negligently fail to diagnose or timely diagnose a patient with sepsis. Because sepsis is a life threatening medical condition, these acts of negligence often end tragically or end up leading to permanent disability and the incurring of substantial medical expenses in order to properly care for the individual and help him rebound back to a health condition. Our lawyers have handled cases running a wide spectrum, from patients who develop sepsis following an operation, to patients who develop sepsis from an infected catheter or port. If you or a loved one has been injured or died as a result of sepsis, call the lawyers at STSW at (410) 385-2225 for a free consultation to determine whether your loved one was misdiagnosed or should have been diagnosed earlier. You may also visit our website to set up your free consultation.

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