Legal Medicine

Legal Pearls: Defense Verdicts for Doctors

  • One day, an 89-year-old woman was brought in from the nursing home where she was residing. The patient had been experiencing abdominal pain and vomiting. After the examination, the physician ordered pain medication and a CT scan. He knew that a CT with contrast would provide the most information, but based on the patient's kidney function, the physician did not believe the patient would be able to tolerate it. He ordered the scan without contrast, and when it came back normal, he discharged the patient from the emergency department. 

    The patient died 2 days later. Her cause of death was mesenteric ischemia–inadequate blood flow resulting in a gangrenous bowel.

    Was the physician at fault?

    (Discussion on next page)

    Ann W. Latner, JD, is a freelance writer and attorney based in New York. She was formerly the director of periodicals at the American Pharmacists Association and editor of Pharmacy Times.