Monday, May 21, 2007

Jury Deliberating Malpractice Suit Against EIRMC

The three week trial against Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center has come to an end.

Since 1:30 Thursday, a jury has been deciding if EIRMC is to blame for severe brain damage in a former patient and it wouldn't be surprising if it's not until Friday before a verdict is reached.

Brock Higham alleges that he went in for wrist surgery in 2002 and came out with a brain injury.

Higham believes the incident is the result of a medication mix-up.

EIRMC denies they had anything to do with the damage.

On Thursday morning, both sides presented their closing arguments. The courtroom was packed, probably more than it has been in the three weeks the trial has been going.

As evidenced by the length of the trial, there is a lot of issues covered. Here are some of the key points brought up in the trial.

First, most of the evidence, including the IV bag and tubing was thrown out by hospital staff the morning after Brock was brain damaged.

The hospital says nurses looked at the medicine and confirmed with their own eyes Brock got the medicine he was prescribed. They then threw it out, so narcotics weren't lying around.

But Higham's legal team thinks it's all an attempt by the hospital to cover up a mistake. They cite EIRMC paperwork that says if a questionable event happens, then all the evidence should be preserved.

Another big issue is the care given by nurses to Brock the night of the incident. The hospital says the nurse assigned to Brock checked in on him more frequently than the every four hours that's required by hospital rules.

But the Highams think the nurses missed some big warning signs including itching, that often precede a bad reaction with narcotics.

They also say he was at a higher risk for a reaction to narcotics because of the way the IV dripped the medicine, even when he didn't call for them and the fact he wasn't sedated to taking narcotics.

Finally, there's the issue of a possible medication mix-up.

The hospital says everyone who treated Brock reported he received the correct prescription.

The Highams say none of the drug Dillaudid showed up in none of the blood tests taken around the time of the incident.

"Bad things do happen to good people all the time, it's a reality of life, and it's not your role to translate emotion and sympathy and desire to help into this forum," said Robert Roth, lead attorney for EIRMC.

"Few moments of neglect can lead to a life of disability and heartache, he is the reason why casual approach to standards cannot be tolerated in this community," said Ken Pedersen, lead attorney for Higham.

For the first time, we found out how much Brock Higham is asking for in damages. Between economic damages and pain and suffering, Higham's attorney says he deserves $8.25 million.

EIRMC maintains Brock's brain damage wasn't preventable.

One of their doctors even said he could have had a stroke.

Two alternate jurors were dismissed on Thursday after closing arguments. They'll only be called back if another juror gets taken off the case.

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