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VA physician admits a dosing mistake, but not causation

Who operates the largest integrated healthcare system in our country? You might or might not be surprised to learn it is the Veterans Health Administration.

Overseeing approximately 1,700 health care sites and providing medical care to 8.76 million veterans each year there are bound to be mistakes. The Department of Treasury is responsible for paying claims when the VA agrees to settle a medical malpractice claim or is found responsible at trial. From 2012 – 2016 there were 2,483 of these cases with a total payout of $554.19 million.

Disclosure of a medication errorRecounting a story is often the best way to explain how one small mistake can change numerous lives.

In 2012, a 40-year-old father of three children was just finishing his Army career. After two decades, he and his family were moving to Asheville, North Carolina. But even before they could move into their new house, he went to local VA hospital thinking he had the flu. It turned out to be more serious and he was admitted with a diagnosis of diverticulitis and a perforated bowel.

When his wife returned to the hospital the next day, her husband was being rushed to ICU after he stopped breathing. They could not revive him.

Admission of medication error and then denials of responsibility

The recently retired Army vet had been prescribed 1 mg of a powerful narcotic called Dilaudid. Due to a mistake, the dosage was mixed up and he was given 4 mg on two occasions. The ICU attending physician admitted the errors in his care.

Even after the disclosure of the mistake, the VA denied responsibility for his death. In medical malpractice litigation that followed, one of the physicians said that because of the length of time between the overdose and heart attack, he couldn’t say if the events were linked.

The case settled out of court for an undisclosed sum without the federal agency admitting guilt in the veteran’s death.

VA claims process

Veterans and their families harmed by a medical mistake at one of these federally-run hospitals or clinics need to be aware of the Federal Tort Claims Act. Any claim filed against the Department of Veteran Affairs based on “a negligent or wrongful act or omission” by an employee must follow proper requirements. These include Standard Form 95 or an equivalent claim notification.

These claims need to be filed “within two years of the date the claim accrued.” Schedule an appointment with one of our experienced attorneys as soon as you have any concerns about the care received at a VA treatment facility. Based on the facts of your situation, we can better explain the limitations period, including how long you have to file a claim and how to effectively pursue your claim.

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