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When Unsafe Choices Lead to Wrongful Death

A very nice lady, whose husband of 50 years had died from medical neglect, recently told me that she could never sue someone for wrongful death – that only God decided when our day of passing would be. However, she wanted the health care providers held accountable for what happened to her husband. 

To her, a malpractice claim for poor care was appropriate; but a wrongful death lawsuit – that was something altogether improper. She did not understand that when someone dies from medical negligence, that malpractice claim is one and the same as a wrongful death claim.

When careless or reckless choices are made, taking your loved one away from you – whether, by a pharmaceutical company, truck driver, a large corporation’s unsafe policies, or even by a trusted doctor – that loss you sustained is wrong.  

Are life’s consequences the product of pre-destination set in motion by divine will, or the exercise of free will? Life has many complex questions without clear answers.

But, I am a trial lawyer – I am not a theologian.

As a trial lawyer, I enjoyed the privilege of talking to and representing many terrific people who unfortunately found themselves in a crisis due to the sudden loss of a loved one. As a result, I understand that without accountability the same tragedy occurs over and over; without justice, corporate greed and careless, cavalier conduct trump societal safeguards.

When a 2-year-old dies slowly in a hospital ER after a treatable contusion to his lungs from a car wreck goes unrecognized because of inattention: wrongful death.

A 15-year-old with classic signs of appendicitis doesn’t get a basic exam or imaging study to reveal her life-threatening condition. Instead, the doctor dismisses her with a diagnosis of gastroenteritis. Soon after, her appendix ruptures as she cries in pain at home. Test, don’t guess; rule out a life-threatening problem rather than assume it is safe to send her home. Her death was wrong.

A 34-year-old father of three who died from a clot in his pulmonary valve just 18 hours after clear warning signs go unheeded by a nurse practitioner who chose not to order safe, simple tests that would have correctly diagnosed the problem; who elected instead to diagnose the patient with bronchitis: He died a wrongful death.

A 53-year-old woman with a leaking aneurysm experiences the worst headache she ever suffered – a thunderclap headache. Her pain is so severe that all she wants to do is crawl into the fetal position in a dark room and moan. However, the doctor diagnoses her with migraines without performing a necessary head scan that would have shown her bleed. The doctor then discharges her from the ER without consulting a specialist who could have taken steps to intervene before the leak deteriorates into a massive hemorrhage: she dies a wrongful death.

I could go on and on — babies who die needlessly at birth;  seniors ignored in nursing homes, often malnourished and dehydrated when they pass; healthy adults suddenly confronting a crossroad foisted on them by someone else’s poor choices.  

I talk to many folks who tell me that they never imagined needing a lawyer or considering suing someone. However, they also do not want something wrong to happen to a member of their family. They feel the weight of responsibility for accountability, a weight that cries out for justice; where wrongs can be made right; where positive changes can be made that will impact others in our community.

A universal truth for each of us in the human journey is that we will eventually die. Pain exists as a reality of the human condition. As a youth, I learned to consider those larger than life questions: “Who am I? From where did I come? Why am I here? Where am I going?” 

For most of us, these questions are often left on the backburner to be answered for another day due to the busyness of surviving and thriving in life,. Then that fateful day comes when we face death, whether it’s our own or that of our loved ones. We want both not to go gently into that dark night, and to cling onto the hope that, if we do, we will awaken to the dawn of a new life without pain.

Faith in a God who cares enough to influence our day of passing is not betrayed by accountability. One does not abandon hope for a beautiful paradise by embracing a notion of justice that holds those who cause another’s wrongful death to answer for their careless and unsafe choices.

If your loved one died due to the careless and unsafe choices of another, call Johnson, Vorhees & Martucci, at (833) 600-0125 or contact us online today to arrange a free consultation about your legal options.

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