Failure to Discontinue Blood Thinner (Coumadin) Leads to Verdict

A recent Washington State jury awarded the surviving wife and two sons of a 42 year old man $2.35 million after a physician failed to take him off a previously prescribed blood thinner.  The decedent, Kenneth Stevens, developed deep vein thrombosis, more commonly referred to as DVT, in one of his legs. 

Deep vein thrombosis occurs when a blood clot (thrombus) forms in one or more of the deep veins in your body, usually in your legs, but sometimes in your stomach or elsewhere.  Deep vein thrombosis can cause leg pain or swelling, but may also occur without causing any symptoms.  The development of DVT can occur if you a hospital patient does not move for a long time (i.e., after surgery), following an accident, or as the result of other medical conditions such as a blood clotting disorder, cancer, or inflammatory bowel disease.  The development of DVT is a potentially life-threatening emergency because the blood clots in the legs or stomach can break loose (they usually form and stick on the interior walls of the veins), travel through your body via the bloodstream, and lodge in your lungs or heart, blocking blood flow.  Clots that lodge in your lungs are commonly referred to as pulmonary emboli (embolism). 

As a result of the diagnosis of Mr. Stevens' DVT, his physician placed him on Coumadin, a well-known blood thinner, that requires constant monthly monitoring to ensure that a patient's INR level (the blood test that measures the time it takes blood to clot) remains in the 2-3 range.  The higher the number (more time it takes blood to clot, the thinner the blood is in the bloodstream).  The decedent, however, missed several months of monitoring, but the physicians continued to keep him on the Coumadin.  After missing several months, Mr. Stevens presented to his local medical center to undergo INR testing and was discovered to have an extremely elevated score of 4.9.  The physician's assistant reduced, but did not discontinue, the Coumadin.  Four days later, Mr. Stevens suffered a brain bleed that left him completely disabled and requiring 24 hour care. 

The plaintiffs sued the medical center and the P.A. for failing to completely discontinue the Coumadin, arguing that had they done so the bleed would have been avoided and his INR would have continued to be monitored over the course of a few days.  The jury agreed, awarding the $2.35 million.

At STSW, our lawyers routinely handle medical malpractice cases involving the failure to diagnose or properly treat deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism in the Baltimore and Washington D.C. area.  As victims of this type of negligence are either usually rendered dependent on 24 hour care or do not survive, these cases are uniformly tragic in nature, but also preventable.  If you or a loved one has been the victim of a failure to properly diagnose or treat DVT or PE, call our legal team for a free consultation.