It Happened When Two Doctors Talked But Failed To Communicate

It happened to a Portland couple and it is a tragedy beyond words. The little girl caught a cold; normally not a big deal. But this little girl was different-she was the recipient of a heart transplant and her mother knew she had to be extra careful. According to a recent article from The Seattle Times, after several days the mother became concerned that her daughter’s cold was not getting better and the girl was increasingly in discomfort, and so she called the hospital for advice. Knowing that the child was a heart transplant patient, the cardiologist who returned the call first called the transplant cardiologist. That physician told him that the child should NOT be given Afrin nasal spray because of the risk of elevated blood pressure.

When the first cardiologist called the mother back he gave her a list of drugs that were okay to use, which included Afrin nasal spray. The mother drove to the store, got the spray, and gave it to her daughter. Minutes later she turned to the child who she realized was not breathing. After being rushed to the hospital, and five days later, the parents were told that the little girl had significant brain damage. Today, she is unable to walk or talk or swallow, and experts say she will require around-the-clock nursing care for the rest of her life.

A physician must demonstrate the same care, skill, and diligence that a similar doctor subject to similar circumstances within a similar community would have demonstrated. Typically, expert testimony is used to set what indeed is that community’s standard of care; the physician’s actions are measured against the community’s standard of care.

At a lengthy trial in the “Afrin” case, numerous technical experts testified and afterward the judge weighed the evidence and the testimony for weeks. The judge finally ruled that the doctors had failed in their duty to communicate with one another and that the advice given to the mother that is was okay to use the nasal spray was “negligent advice.” The result was a $15.2 million judgment. The mother simply sobbed as the judge rendered his verdict.

Anyone who has been injured as a result of advice rendered by his or her physician should seek the advice of an experienced Oregon medical malpractice attorney to thoroughly evaluate the circumstances and help determine whether a case can be made that the physician standard of care has not been met.