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2 central Pennsylvania hospitals blamed for young woman's death

On May 11, a 26-year-old woman graduated from medical school. On May 29, she died of a brain hemorrhage at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, where she was set to begin her first year of residency. Tragically, she could have been saved. When she first came for treatment, the blood clot that took her life hadn’t yet begun to bleed, and a timely diagnosis and treatment would likely have prevented it. Neither of those things happened.

According to a medical negligence lawsuit brought by her parents, the young doctor came to the emergency room at the Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Township on May 26. She reported being easily bruised and experiencing a severe headache that had lasted for more than 10 days. A smart doctor might have recognized the signs of a potentially life-threatening blood clot in the brain, but there were no smart doctors available that night. The hospital was extremely understaffed due to the Memorial Day holiday.

Even a competent physician should have been able to diagnose the problem, but no one took even down her basic medical history. No one ordered a simple brain imaging test. No one consulted a neurologist. She was diagnosed as having a blood platelet issue and was given painkillers.

A medical history would have revealed that the young doctor was using NuvaRing, a contraceptive device associated with increased risk of blood-clotting problems. A CT scan would probably have detected the thrombosis on one of the sinus veins in her brain.

No CT scan was performed until Tuesday, when people came back from vacation. It did show signs of that blood clot -- but no bleeding yet. Unfortunately, there was no interventional radiologist available at that hospital who could have tried to break down the clot before it burst.

A doctor did order an MRI, but it was too late. While she awaited the test, her condition deteriorated. Halfway through, she no longer had the ability to comply with orders. The incomplete MRI showed a deadly brain hemorrhage. She was taken to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, but the damage was irreversible. She was removed from life support on May 29.

Her parents believe her condition could easily have been completely corrected if the available medical staff hadn’t skipped “some of the most basic and fundamental principles in medicine.” The defendants had no comment to offer.

Source: The Times Leader, "Malpractice suit filed in young doctor’s death," Jerry Lynott, Jan. 8, 2014

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