The 57 year old widow had a history of a successfully diagnosed and treated pulmonary embolism. One year later, she stumbled in her apartment and bruised her hip and chest. Three days later, she told her family physician that she was experiencing shortness of breath and chest pain. The classic symptoms for a pulmonary embolism are shortness of breath and chest pain.
Her son drove her to the emergency room on the family physician’s advice. In the emergency room, she reported the fall, described her symptoms of shortness of breath and chest pain, and said she was afraid she was experiencing another pulmonary embolism. The emergency room physician ordered a routine chest x-ray, told her that she had bruised ribs, and released her from the hospital with pain medications.
She was found dead two days later in her apartment. Autopsy confirmed that she died from a massive pulmonary embolism.
The hospital and emergency room physician were sued for failing to order a VQ Scan - a common test consisting of two overlapping x-rays intended to diagnose pulmonary embolisms. The hospital employing the emergency room physician settled the case for a substantial sum. Half of the settlement funds were used to purchase a structured annuity to make periodic payments to the benefit of a son with special needs.