Maryland Court Examines Standard of Care in Medical Malpractice Claims

The Court of Special Appeals in Maryland recently reexamined a lower court’s judgment granting summary judgment in favor of a doctor defendant in a medical malpractice claim. In Puppolo v. Sivaraman, the plaintiff’s wife died due to the use of heparin, an anticoagulant used to stop blood clotting during dialysis.

Heparin isn’t usually given when the patient’s platelet level falls below 50. This is because when heparin is given to a patient whose platelet level is below 50, it can be very detrimental to a patient and even cause death. As a result, there are strict protocols that must be followed when administering heparin, including monitoring the patient’s platelet levels and stopping heparin if platelet levels fall below 50.

In the case at hand, the plaintiff’s wife’s platelet level was 1, but she was still given two doses of the drug. Not long afterward, she died. The plaintiff then filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the wife’s physician, claiming the physician breached the duty of care owed to his wife through the improper administration of heparin.

Under Maryland law, medical malpractice refers to negligence by a medical professional, such as a physician, nurse, therapist, or member of a hospital staff or health care facility. Negligence takes place when a medical professional’s conduct does not meet the accepted standard of care, resulting in harm to the patient Negligence can also take place when a medical professional fails to act when there is a duty to do so.

Here, the evidence showed that the physician did not request an order for heparin. Instead, the resident physician in the hospital actually ordered the prescription. The plaintiff insisted that the physician was responsible for the resident’s actions under the borrowed servant rule.

The court disagreed with the plaintiff and granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, explaining that there was no basis for the plaintiff’s claim that the defendant had somehow ordered or sanctioned the heparin order. Since the defendant did not do any of those things, the defendant could not have breached the duty of care owed to the plaintiff.

The Appeals Court agreed with the lower court and affirmed the summary judgment in favor of the defendant, stating there was no evidence linking the defendant to the heparin that was given to the decedent. There was also nothing in the record to support the plaintiff’s contention that the resident was working under the supervision of the defendant when ordering the heparin.

If you or someone close to you has been harmed because of medical malpractice, we can help. At Arfaa Law Group, our Baltimore attorneys can meticulously analyze the facts of your case and come up with a legal strategy. Not every negative outcome is the result of medical malpractice, so it is important to work with a skilled attorney who can provide you with an honest assessment of your case. You can trust that we will advocate for your rights and seek the compensation you deserve for your harm. For more information, feel free to call 410-889-1850 or contact us online.

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