Untreated Patient Dies Outside Hospital Emergency Room

Article posted on:11/01/2007

As first reported in the Los Angeles Times on October 31, 2007, 33-year-old Christopher Jones, died outside the Olive View-UCLA Medical Center last week after waiting for 3 hours for treatment for chest pains. According to reports, Jones arrived with complaints of ongoing chest pains but was told to sit in the waiting room until it was his turn. Despite his ongoing symptoms, the hospital's health care providers failed to perform a simple test to determine whether his heart was functioning properly, a standard practice for a patient complaining of such pain. After waiting for more than 3 hours, Jones got up, walked outside and collapsed on the pavement, dying within minutes. As reported in the LA Times, medical records show the Olive View triage nurse never wrote down basic details about Jones' complaints, including the location of his chest pain or how bad it was. Those symptoms are key to determining how the hospital should respond. While Jones had his pulse, blood pressure and blood sugar levels tested, the medical records do not show he was given an electrocardiogram, a test used to diagnose heart attacks. The American College of Cardiology strongly advises hospitals to conduct an EKG within 10 minutes of a patient's arrival at an emergency department if he or she complains of chest pain or has other symptoms associated with a heart attack.

According to the American Heart Association, regardless of whether you have been trained, you should begin CPR with chest compressions on a person who you suspect is having a heart attack or is  unconscious from a heart attack.  With each passing minute after a heart attack, more heart tissue loses oxygen and begins to deteriorate and die.  The way to prevent heart damage is to restore the flow of blood quickly.  Medications that are typically given to heart attack victims include aspirin (reduces blood clotting, helping blood flow through a narrowed artery), clotbusters or thrombolytics (help dissolve a clot in your artery), super aspirins, nitroglycerin (temporarily opens arterial blood vessels, improving blood flow), beta blockers (help relax your heart muscle, slow your heartbeat and decrease blood pressure, making heart's job easier), ACE inhibitors (lower blood pressure and reduce stress of heart), and cholesterol lowering medications (otherwise known as statins). 

Heart attack victims or individuals believed to be at risk for an imminent heart attack often undergo one of several procedures:  1.  coronary angioplasty and stenting which opens up the blocked arteries and lets blood flow more freely to your heart.  A catheter is generally inserted from the patient's groin through an artery up to the heart whereupon a stent (metal mesh) is inserted into the opened artery to keep it open long term.   Angioplasty refers to the procedure that doctors use to identify narrowed arteries to the heart..   2.  Coronary artery bypass surgery.  This procedure involves sewing veins or arteries in place at a site beyond a blocked or narrowed coronary artery, thereby restoring blood flow to the heart. 

If you or a loved one believe you have been the victim of medical malpractice regarding the failure to timely diagnose you with a heart attack and/or failure to properly treat you following a heart attack, contact the attorneys at Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White at 410-385-2225 for a free consultation or visit our website to set up your free consultation.