Sepsis is a very serious illness. Sometimes, surgeons make mistakes, such as perforating a bowel, that results in sepsis. Other times, doctors take too long to identify and treat sepsis. This could lead to devastating complications and even death. These scenarios, and others, could be medical negligence. Read on to learn more about sepsis. If you or a loved one suffered complications from sepsis, you might have a medical malpractice case. Contact our medical malpractice lawyers today for a free consultation.
Yes! Sepsis causes or contributes to half of all deaths in hospitals. Sepsis causes more deaths in the United States than prostate cancer, breast cancer, and AIDS combined.
Sepsis is a life-threatening complication of an infection. If an infection is not stopped, the body’s immune system can go into overdrive. Chemicals that are released by the immune system into the bloodstream to fight the infection cause inflammation through the body. This inflammation leads to blood clots and leaky blood vessels, which results in poor blood flow. The poor blood flow causes the body’s organs to lose nutrients and oxygen. The organs start to fail. Blood pressure drops, the heart weakens, and septic shock can occur. If that happens, death can result.
Sepsis affects over 750,000 people per year. Anyone can get an infection that leads to sepsis. Common infections that may cause sepsis include pneumonia, urinary tract infection, and infections of the skin or gut. Staph, E. coli and Streptoccocus are common germs that cause infections that may develop into sepsis.
Babies under one or people over the age of 65, or who have chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease, cancer, high blood pressure or who have weakened immune systems are at a higher risk. Also, individuals that had surgery, especially abdominal surgery, are at risk.
Common symptoms of sepsis include fever, chills, rapid breathing and heart rate. Confusion and disorientation are also symptoms, as well as clammy or sweaty skin, shortness of breath, shivering or feeling cold.
It is critically important that medical providers consider sepsis if the patient’s infection is not getting better or is getting worse. Sepsis can be initially difficult to identify, as symptoms can be vague, and can mask as related to other illnesses, even the common cold or flu. Early detection and treatment is key to combating sepsis before it develops into septic shock, which can lead to death.
Once a medical provider suspects sepsis, the diagnosis can be confirmed by laboratory and radiographic studies. A blood test can reveal signs of infection, clotting issues, abnormal liver or kidney function, decreased amount of oxygen in the blood or an electrolyte imbalance. A urine, wound secretion or mucus secretion test may help identify, or rule out, the source of the infection. Radiology tests, like x-rays, CT scans, ultrasounds and MRI, can also be important to identify the source of an infection.
Sepsis is treatable with antibiotics and IV fluids if detected early. If it is a more severe case, the patient may need kidney dialysis or mechanical assistance with breathing. Surgery to remove damaged tissue may also become necessary. Patients afflicted with sepsis may suffer lasting side effects including permanent organ damage, amputation of limbs and cognitive impairment. Patients recovering from sepsis also have an increased risk of rehospitalization within the first few months. Patients may also suffer insomnia, nightmares, panic attacks, disabling muscle and joint pain. If sepsis is not detected and treated early, death may result. The death rate increases with the severity of the sepsis: 20% for sepsis, 40% for severe sepsis and more than 60% for septic shock.
If you, or a loved one, were diagnosed with sepsis and suffered serious injury as a result, the hospital and medical providers may have been negligent, in either causing the sepsis, or failing to timely diagnose or treat it.
There are two scenarios in which a medical malpractice claim may be appropriate following a diagnosis of sepsis. First, if the sepsis was caused by the doctor or hospital in some way, i.e. failure to properly sterilize surgical instruments, use proper hand-washing or just general unsanitary conditions. The second, and more common, medical malpractice claim related to sepsis is a failure to timely diagnose and treat.
In either scenario, the hospital and medical providers could be held liable if they breached the standard of care and if the breach caused the injury. If those factors are met, then you may have a viable medical malpractice case.
If you believe that you or a loved one suffered injury and damages due to negligence at the hands of medical professionals, contact Hoffer & Sheremet. The next steps would typically include the following:
· Gather and review medical records;
· Retain expert witnesses;
· Speak to treatment providers about your prognosis;
· Interview you and close loved ones regarding the impact the injury has had on your life;
· Calculate your medical expenses, out of pocket expenses, lost wages, loss of future earnings and other economic damages;
· Send a demand letter to the hospital and medical providers to attempt pre-suit settlement;
· Serve a Notice of Intent on the hospital and medical providers;
· At the expiration of the Notice of Intent waiting period, file the Complaint and Affidavit of Merit to initiate litigation;
· Conduct discovery;
· Handle motions, court proceedings, and facilitation;
· Try the case if there is no settlement.
You, or a loved one, injured because of a hospital or medical provider’s failure to timely diagnose and treat sepsis may be entitled to compensation in the form of economic and non-economic damages. The amount of compensation is determined by many factors, including the severity of the injury, the impact on the patient’s ability to lead his or her life, medical costs, lost wages and loss of future earnings. Unless the injury caused by the medical malpractice is hemi- para- or quadriplegia, permanently impaired cognitive capacity, or permanent loss of or damage to a reproductive organ resulting in an inability to have children, the non-economic damages like pain and suffering will be limited to a maximum of $477,900. If the lawsuit is on behalf of a deceased patient, compensation is dictated by Michigan’s wrongful death act and includes reasonable medical, hospital, funeral and burial expenses, reasonable compensation for the conscious pain and suffering of the patient between the time of the injury and his or her death, and damages for loss of financial support and society and companionship of the deceased.
This site is informational only. It does not provide legal advice for your matter. Hoffer & Sheremet only begins an attorney-client relationship with the signing of an engagement letter.