Our client was a 24 year old single mother who presented to the Emergency Room of an area hospital complaining of sudden chest pain and difficulty breathing. The technician in triage did the right thing and performed an EKG to record the electrical activity of the patient’s heart. She also performed blood work, along with a special test called a “cardiac enzyme” test.
The EKG revealed “ST segment elevations” which means the patient was having a heart attack. Further, the cardiac enzymes in the blood were also significantly elevated, which provided additional proof that the patient was having a heart attack.
At her deposition, the attending doctor who next saw the patient tried to deny that the elevated cardiac enzymes meant that the patient was having a heart attack. She did agree that the elevated enzymes could indicate a heart attack, but she tried to wiggle out of it by saying the result could also be elevated from some other type of injury such as in a patient who “falls down and is on the ground for a long time”.
The doctor’s testimony became even more bizarre when I questioned her about the EKG. I admit, EKG tracings are difficult to read unless you really know what you’re doing. But when I asked her if she was capable of reading them, she said that she was fully capable. I also asked her if an “ST segment elevation” on an EKG is indicative of a heart-attack, and she agreed with me. But when I asked this doctor whether the tracings showed an ST segment elevation, she denied it and insisted that the tracings were normal.
I found her denial to be very helpful in demonstrating that she committed gross malpractice. The reason it was helpful is because this particular EKG machine generated a written interpretation, in plain english, on the second page. And in fact, the plain english diagnosis of the tracing was “ST segment elevation” indicative of a heart attack – which was confirmed by our own expert.
The Attempted Cover-up:
And yet, this doctor still wasn’t ready to be truthful with me even after I confronted her with the computer printout. So after some further questioning, it was revealed that the doctor had “doctored” our client’s medical records. You see, after this physician completed her cursory examination of our client, she wrote down her diagnosis in the chart. But after our client was left waiting over 4 hours to be admitted to the medical unit, she suffered a massive heart attack and died.
As it turns out, this doctor then went back to the patient’s chart and re-wrote the chart to try to cover up the malpractice.
Originally the note read:
(2) ESR (end stage renal disease)
(3) Admit to medical unit
…but then she changed it to read:
(1) Chest Pain, Rule Out Heart-Attack
(4) Admit to Heart Unit
Unfortunately, I see this kind of thing all the time. It’s bad enough that she killed this woman who left behind a little baby. But did she really have to go and change the patient’s chart to try and cover up her mistake? Does this make anyone else angry?