We expect doctors to help us combat that which ails us. This is particularly
when a medical center is located in an area that is likely to see a much
larger than average number of people suffering a specific ailment. Along
the Florida coastline, particularly where the water tends to be relatively
calm and inviting, scuba diving is hugely popular. This makes it hard
to believe that some facilities are not prepared to treat decompression
sickness, a failure to treat that endangers tourists and residents alike
and raises concerns for our Panama City medical malpractice attorney.
Woman Alleges Hospital Failed to Properly Treat Decompression Illness
A Bay County woman had 27 years of scuba diving experience before she experienced
her first bout with decompression sickness. The woman told WJHG she felt
pain in her arm immediately after surfacing and decided to go to the emergency
room when it did not pass. Personnel at Bay Medical Sacred Heart examined
her quickly but told her they did not treat scuba diving accidents and
directed her to a facility in Mobile, Alabama.
About.com discusses the threat of decompression illness, also called the
bends, which can occur if a diver surfaces too fast causing nitrogen to
form bubbles instead of being harmlessly released. While Type 1 is painful,
it is not immediately life-threatening. Type II, however, impacts the
nervous system and can kill the diver. Beyond oxygen therapy and first
aid, treatment protocol includes use of a recompression or hyperbaric
chamber as soon as possible. "When treating Decompression Sickness
the delay in beginning recompression treatment can be the biggest single
cause of residual effects."
Bay Medical told WJHG that they have not provided 24/7 staffing for their
hyperbaric chamber for several years, in part because they only see four
diving injuries each year. This has long angered the diving community,
especially given that the area markets itself to diving tourism and since
the chamber is in existence. Notably, Mobile's chamber is the closest
in operation and is about a 3.5 hour ride by ambulance.
Florida's Medical Malpractice Law
Medical malpractice claims require the plaintiff show: 1) Negligence; 2)
Proximate cause (i.e. the failure directly led to the claimed injuries);
and 3) Damages. Negligence in this context is, per the Florida Standard
Jury Instructions, is the failure to use the level of care/skill/treatment
that a similar, reasonably careful, provider would use in the same circumstances.
This is based on the statutory definition of medical malpractice at Florida
Statutes 766.102. Claims require the use of an expert witness and adherence
to procedural requirements, making an experienced attorney all but essential.
Applying Medical Malpractice Law to Failure to Provide Hyperbaric Treatment
There are a number of different types of medical malpractice claims in
Florida. If a diver suffered injury due to circumstances akin to those
in the WJHG article, one type of claim that might apply would be "failure
Notably, Zarin's Jury Verdict Review, a popular reference work, discusses
a case in which a Florida man claimed he was injured because a medical
provider failed to use a hyperbaric chamber following decompression sickness.
The jury ruled in the plaintiff's favor, focusing on the impact of
delayed treatment. Experts for the plaintiff suggested the delay in obtaining
hyperbaric chamber treatment led to a permanent paralysis in his legs
and incontinence. Interestingly, given the discussion in the WJHG piece,
the plaintiff in the case reported in Zarin's did eventually receive
hyperbaric treatment at Bay Medical.
If a failure to treat, including an unreasonable delay in treatment, caused
you or a loved one injury, you may have a medical malpractice claim. Call
Attorney Pittman, a Northwest Florida malpractice lawyer, to discuss your case.
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