Physician Not Liable for Child’s Necrotizing Pancreatitis

In 2018, the parents of the then 9-year-old child brought him to Wellstar Paulding Hospital in Hiram, Georgia, because of his severe abdominal pain and distention, among other symptoms. Following their examination, medical personnel at the hospital suspected the child’s symptoms were the result of severe constipation….medscape.com, Physician Not Held Liable for Child’s Necrotizing Pancreatitis, Jury Finds, July 2023

 

That evening, he was transferred to a Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, where a pediatric gastroenterologist oversaw his care.

 

Late the following day, the child went into hypovolemic shock, a condition that interrupted the blood supply to his body. Admitted to the pediatric ICU, he was diagnosed with a dangerous complication of acute pancreatitis, necrotizing pancreatitis.

 

Further complications of his original disease led to a 4-month hospital stay, multiple surgeries, and other interventions. To this point, his medical expenses totaled more than $2.5 million.

 

His parents then sued the pediatric gastroenterologist who had overseen their child’s care. At issue during the 4-day trial was whether the doctor had properly monitored and treated his patient before his hypovolemic shock set in.

 

Their attorney sketched the “timeline” of the child’s decline, including his rapid heart rate and repeated vomiting. Given these symptoms, he argued, the standard of care required that steps be taken — including the proper tests and other interventions — to prevent the child’s acute pancreatitis from progressing even further.

 

The defense argued that the pediatric gastroenterologist had acted appropriately given the prevailing consensus, namely that the child was suffering from extreme constipation. Doctors at Wellstar Paulding, the first hospital where he was seen, suspected this diagnosis — and so, based on his exam and the child’s “non-specific” symptoms, did their client, the pediatric gastroenterologist, who saw him subsequently.

 

The jury agreed, finding that the pediatric gastroenterologist had acted appropriately, based on the available evidence.

COMMENTS

1 comment

  1. Skimpy description of facts. But isn’t the pediatric gastroenterologist required to make his own diagnostic workup? Should not simply rely upon medical opinion of less specialized physicians?

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