Unrecognized postpartum cardiomyopathy
A 41-year-old woman was diagnosed with hypertension during her pregnancy in 2007. She was hospitalized twice prior to delivery by cesarean and was discharged 2 days after delivery with a B/P of 130/90. The patient went to her obstetrician’s office 4 days after delivery with complaints of not feeling well and having extreme swelling. Her B/P was taken twice by a nurse, with readings of 170/80 and 168/90. She was sent home without being examined by the obstetrician, although she passed him in the hallway on her way out of the office. The patient later claimed that she told him she was not feeling well and that her blood pressure was high. She also claimed she was instructed to double her antihypertensive medication. That evening the patient had difficulty breathing and paramedics transported her to a hospital, where she was admitted and immediately intubated. She was without a pulse for 15 minutes, was in a coma for 45 days and suffered permanent brain damage. She is unable to walk without assistance, is legally blind, and her hands are contorted which makes her unable to feed herself. She also suffers from short-term memory loss and difficulty speaking.
The patient sued the obstetrician and claimed that she had unrecognized classic signs of post-partum cardiomyopathy. She alleged that if the obstetrician had examined her and noted her B/P when she was in the office 4 days after delivery her condition would have been properly treated and prevented her permanent disabilities.
The obstetrician argued that the patient had not come to the office because she was feeling ill, but to show the staff her baby and have her B/P checked. He claimed that if he had been advised of her B/P readings he would have examined her.
The verdict: The jury found in favor of the patient and awarded her $5 million.