Urinary catheters are used in many medical settings to help patients with bladder dysfunction (or temporary inability, sometimes due to surgery or other conditions) to continuously drain urine. They can be inserted in men and women, and research has established they are used by between 15 percent and 25 percent of all patients at some point during a hospital stay (with greater prevalence among patients whose stays are longer). Most catheters are only intended for short-term use, under 30 days typically.
Although catheters can be medically necessary, they are invasive devices and serious problems can arise when they are used unnecessarily or aren’t removed when they are no longer needed. There are far too many instances wherein older patients with incontinence have catheters inserted when they medically don’t need it – simply for staff convenience. These devices are associated with a greater death risk – four times higher during hospitalization and twice as high three months after discharge.
Recently in Missouri, the family of a 52-year-old veteran soldier filed a medical malpractice lawsuit over what they say was a misplaced catheter. According to the Kansas City Star, the patient was living in a nursing home due to multiple sclerosis and a traumatic brain injury. He was being seen at a Veteran’s Affairs urology clinic for a condition called neurogenic bladder, which is a common complication of multiple sclerosis that can cause one’s bladder to be either underactive or overactive.
At some point, a medical provider removed patient’s catheter and inserted a new one. When patient was returned to the nursing home, staffers noted he had spiked a fever, and blood was clotting at the end of his penis. He was rushed by ambulance to a hospital. He was diagnosed there with a urinary tract infection as well as sepsis, which is a serious and potentially fatal blood infection. He was transported from there to the VA, where medical staff discovered the catheter had inflated in the urethra – rather than in his bladder.
Emergency room physicians replaced the catheter, but patient went into septic shock anyway. He died days later.
It’s well known that urinary tract infections are a common side effect of catheters and is caused by bacteria. However, infections and damage resulting specifically from a misplaced catheter is less common – but totally preventable if health care providers are cautious in monitoring the output of urine both before and after the catheter is inserted.
Plaintiff in this wrongful death medical malpractice litigation is decedent’s widow, who is seeking damages not only for her own loss of consortium, but also the immense conscious physical pain and suffering her husband likely endured in the days before his death. This last claim for damages is important, not only for accountability’s sake, but because also a loss of consortium claim might not yield significant damages in this particular case, given that decedent was already living in a nursing home at the time this all occurred. Loss of consortium damages are intended to compensate for the loss of companionship and services one loses when a loved one dies or is seriously injured as a result of negligence. This is generally established with testimony and other evidence regarding the closeness of that relationship.
This case is also likely to be complicated by the fact that because the alleged negligence occurred in a V.A. hospital, the defendant is the U.S. government. That creates certain challenges in and of itself.
Our dedicated medical malpractice attorneys in Orlando are committed to fighting for each of our clients to obtain the compensation they deserve.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
VA inflated catheter in Missouri man’s penis, causing bleeding then death, suit says, June 4, 2018, By Andy Marso, Kansas City Star
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Otherwise “Unconstitutional” Caps in Med-Mal Lawsuit Damages Alive & Well – Thanks to Arbitration, May 19, 2018, Orlando Medical Malpractice Lawyer Blog