January 24, 2023
We recently filed a wrongful death case involving an emergency room physician’s failure to timely and accurately diagnose a medical emergency, hyperkalemia. Hyperkalemia is an abnormal and higher-than-normal level of potassium in the blood. Severe cases of hyperkalemia that are left untreated can lead to fatal cardiac arrhythmias, which are abnormal heart rhythms that can cause a person to suffer a fatal heart attack. That’s exactly what happened in this case. Tragically, a simple blood test could have been performed by the emergency room physician that would have led to an accurate diagnosis within minutes of the patient’s arrival at the emergency department. Once diagnosed, there are very effective drugs that can be administered to reverse hyperkalemia and reduce the level of potassium in the person’s blood. This is a very treatable and survivable condition.
Unfortunately, the emergency room physician did not order the required test and misinterpreted certain other tests that were performed, all of which led to a significant delay in diagnosing the patient’s condition and appropriately treating it once it was diagnosed. After hours of preventable delay, the patient ultimately suffered a fatal heart attack and died.