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Doctor's conduct may be key point in medical malpractice claim

When a medical emergency arises, time is often the deciding factor in whether someone will survive. Loved ones are often the greatest advocates in ensuring that a patient receives timely and appropriate medical treatment. Unfortunately, there may be times when a provider's negligence leads to not just the patient, but also family, suffering severe distress. If evidence points to inaction as being a factor in the loss of a patient, then South Carolina patients may have a case for a medical malpractice claim.

Recently, an appeals court ruled that a case for emotional distress may proceed. In 2014, a 46-year-old man suffered an acute cardiac event while shopping. The man was transported to a nearby medical center. Within 25 minutes, the physician on duty in the emergency department pronounced him deceased. However, family members continued to insist that the man was still alive as he was breathing and moving an arm.

More than two hours elapsed before the doctor re-examined the patient and admitted him. At some point, the decision was made to transfer the man to another hospital where he died the following morning. His widow has since filed a lawsuit against the admitting physician and the first hospital, alleging that she has suffered extreme emotional distress.

An appellant court ruled the case may continue. There were questions concerning the validity of the case since the victim purportedly did not seek treatment for her emotional distress. However, based on the appeals court ruling, it may be possible that the attending doctor will be found to have demonstrated negligence to the point that the woman experienced severe distress that undermined her own well-being. South Carolina patients are entitled to professional, ethical and prompt medical care. When a provider fails to meet the expected standard of care, patients -- or their survivors -- may have grounds for seeking a remedy for their damages through a medical malpractice civil lawsuit.

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